Tiger Woods | Wiki­media Commons

When Tiger Woods rolled into his final putt on Sunday to win his fifth Masters title and 15th major cham­pi­onship, he answered the question that hung over the golf world for a long time: How does Tiger compare to the current gen­er­ation of great golfers?

It was Woods’ own greatness that gave rise to the gen­er­ation of golfers he had to defeat to win his first Masters Cham­pi­onship since 2005.

When Woods won his first major title at Augusta National in 1997, Pulitzer-Prize winning sports­writer Dave Anderson of the New York Times pro­posed dividing golf history into two eras: before-Tiger and after-Tiger. Anderson foresaw that Tiger’s ath­leticism and suave demeanor, com­bined with his ability to bring non-white golfers to the game, would create a new golfing land­scape. Anderson pre­dicted this even before Tiger won the “Tiger Slam” and held all four major titles at the same time — widely con­sidered the greatest golfing achievement of the modern era.

Tiger himself pre­dicted that his example would breed a new gen­er­ation of golfers.

“I think more young people will start to play the game,” Woods said. “I think that barrier, where young people haven’t nor­mally pursued golf, I think that now kids will think golf is cool, really. And I think they will start playing it.’’

That new gen­er­ation of golfers are household names now.

Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson fit the mold of the “after-Tiger Era” pro­fes­sional golfer. Pow­erful, ath­letic, and treated like rock­stars, they have nine major cham­pi­onships between them.

Facing this crowd of tal­ented chal­lengers was Woods — now 43-years and four back surg­eries old. Before last fall, he hadn’t won in five years. Many doubted, myself included, whether Woods would be able to compete with the new gen­er­ation in his state of dis­repair.

Sunday’s win proves beyond a doubt that Tiger can still compete and win at the highest level with the current gen­er­ation of top golfers, tal­ented as they are. Some could argue we already knew that. After all, last year Woods led the British Open, fin­ished second in the PGA Cham­pi­onship, and won the Tour Cham­pi­onship.

But until Sunday, I wasn’t con­vinced. Woods played his best golf since 2012 in last year’s PGA Cham­pi­onship, shooting an impressive 14 under-par, but he still couldn’t beat Brooks Koepka, who has dom­i­nated the major cham­pi­onships in a way not seen since Tiger did in the early 2000’s.

Coming into the Masters, Koepka had won three of his last six major cham­pi­onship starts, and coming down the stretch this past Sunday, it was Koepka that Woods had to beat.

Woods did beat Koepka, and proved he deserves to be rec­og­nized as one of the best golfers in the world.

Woods silenced the ever-present doubters. These naysayers con­tended that Woods wouldn’t have been as dom­inant in his youth if players like Koepka or McIlroy had been around when Woods was winning major cham­pi­onships in bunches.

If Woods can go beat the best players of this gen­er­ation in his current con­dition, there is no way any of them could have slowed him down in his prime when his back actually worked and he played more than just the occa­sional event.

This is not to demean the new gen­er­ation of golfers, some of whom will undoubtedly be con­sidered the top-ten golfers of all time. Woods is simply on another level.

It’s exactly as Tiger’s fre­quent com­petitor and “frenemy,” Phil Mick­elson, once said in an interview with Golf Mag­azine: “There is nobody in the game that I have seen that is remotely close to the level of per­for­mance Tiger was in his prime,” Mick­elson said. “Men­tally, short game, or ball striking, I don’t think anybody matches him in any of those areas. And Tiger put them all together in one to create a career that is mind-bog­gling in the game of golf.”

Sutton Dun­woodie is a junior studying Political Economy.

  • Camus53

    Tiger has a life lesson for all, stu­dents and anyone else. It’s never too late to change, adapt, renew, revive, reded­icate and simply per­severe against all of life’s obstacles, self induced or not. Never easy. But like Sisyphus, unless you endeavor to carry that boulder up the mountain, you will never, ever, know the glory of making it to the top.