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The Greatest Show on Earth

Aug. 28, 2000
Aug. 28, 2000

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Aug. 28, 2000

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The Greatest Show on Earth

It's a strange job, traipsing about, typing sports. You forget
how to tingle. Your Amaze-o-Meter gets stuck on empty. A comeback
to win the Super Bowl? Yawn, scribble. A 9.9 to win the gold?
Scribble, yawn. Almost 220 mph on that last lap? Yawn, yawn.

This is an article from the Aug. 28, 2000 issue

Then along comes Tiger Woods, and a job becomes a privilege. I
would pogo from Bangor to Birmingham to see Woods play. I would
wear spike heels, a see-through muumuu and RuPaul's curlers if it
were the only way through the gate. I ought to buy my dad a box
of cigars for having me the year that he did.

We're lucky. All of us. We're alive when the single most
dominating athlete in 70 years is at his jaw-dropping best. Bathe
in it. Wallow in it. Savor it. Take notes. Get video. Save
newspapers. Your grandkids will want details.

Michael Jordan? This guy is better. Jordan had teammates. Woods
is out there by himself. Jordan beat guys one-on-one, one-on-two.
Woods won last week's unforgettable PGA Championship at Valhalla
one-on-149. What's more, Woods never got cheap calls from refs.

Woods is pureeing everybody, everywhere, every way--from miles
ahead and from two behind, as he was on Sunday with 12 holes to
play. How many guys are good enough to win a major playing off
cart paths on the last two holes? He thumps great players, and he
survives the guy pulling gold monkeys out of his ear. Staring
into the biggest upset since Colts-Jets, he snuffed out a toy pit
bull named Bob May with a mile of must-make putts. All he did was
birdie eight of 13 holes, including the first playoff hole. You
can't Buster Douglas Tiger Woods. He stuffs every Cinderella back
into the pumpkin.

Woods is the most amazing performer I've ever seen, and I've seen
Ali, Gretzky, Jordan, Montana and Nicklaus. What Woods is doing
is so hard it's like climbing Everest in flip-flops. Performing
heart transplants in oven mitts. The four major championships
have been played 344 times, and Woods now holds or shares the
scoring record in all four of them? That's sick.

Woods's adjusted scoring average this year is 67.86, which would
be a record by about a mile if it holds up for the rest of the
season. Before Woods put up his 68.43 last year, only Greg Norman
(68.81) in 1994 and Nick Price (68.98) in '97 had broken 69.
Since the PGA Tour came up with the adjusted scoring average in
1988, the largest margin of victory--other than Woods's .74 last
year--was Norman's .58 of a stroke. This year Woods figures to
lead by 1.53 strokes. That's, what, 163% better than the Shark's
margin?

You're sick of hearing about Tiger Woods. You're going to hear
more. He has more than twice as much jing as the next guy on the
PGA Tour money list. He has more than triple the points of the
next guy on the U.S. Ryder Cup list. He has more than twice as
many points as the next guy in the World Golf Ranking. Muhammad
Ali was great, but was he twice as great as Joe Frazier?

The grumps in the press tent keep trying to find a buzzkill in
all this. Hey, Nicklaus had to beat Gary Player and Tom Watson.
Hey, if Woods didn't exist, wouldn't Ernie Els be Player by now?
Might not David Duval have a chance to be Watson? Brilliant
careers are going around stuck on Woods's golf spikes.

What do you have to shoot to win here? Stuart Appleby was asked
last Thursday.

"Tiger Woods," he said.

Go see this kid while you're breathing. Three straight majors?
Not done in 47 years. Four of the last five majors? Not done,
ever. Now he's leaning on the doorbell of something nobody
thought would ever be done: the Grand Slam. Oh, yes, it is. If
Woods wins the Masters next April, that is the Grand Slam. It's
not the continuous Slam or the asterisk Slam, just the Grand
Slam. He says so. I say so. Hell, sportswriters invented it;
sportswriters make the rules. And don't give me Bobby Jones.
Beating three guys named Nigel and two sheep at the British
Amateur doesn't even compute.

Last Thursday at Valhalla, Woods and Jack Nicklaus were walking
down the first fairway, their ears ringing from the roars. "Man,
it's loud," Nicklaus said to Woods. "Thank God, I'm done playing.
Now you get to deal with this the rest of your career."

As well he should.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
What Tiger Woods is doing is so hard it's like climbing Everest
in flip-flops. Performing heart transplants in oven mitts.