After Tiger Woods' stunning revelation that he won the U.S. Open playing with both a broken leg and a torn ACL, many in the golf world commented not only on Tiger's dramatic come-from-behind victory, but the fact surgery will now cause him to miss the rest of the season. While most quotes were fairly mundane, not unlike Open competitor Rocco Mediate's 275-yard middle-of-the-fairway drives, the two extremes were represented by two former Open winners, two-time champ Retief Goosen and 4-time champion Jack Nicklaus.
When asked if Tiger was faking the extent of his pain, the usually elusive Goosen concurred: “I think so. It just seemed that when he hit a bad shot his knee was in pain and on his good shots he wasn’t. You see when he made the putts and he went down on his [bad] knees and was shouting, ‘Yeah’! His knee wasn’t sore then ... if he was really injured, he would not have played."
Now contrast this trash-talking with the effusive praise of 18-time major champion Nicklaus. "In light of this week's revelation about Tiger's health, it makes his performance in the U.S. Open that much more phenomenal ... I have always said that the U.S. Open is the most difficult and complete examination of a golfer, and for him to persevere with a damaged knee and stress fracture is a testament not only to his ability, but his tremendously high level of competitiveness. He is a great person and a great champion. I take my hat off to him, and personally look forward to Tiger's return."
While acknowledging Goosen made his foolish comments before the extent of Woods' injuries were made public, Retief's retorts, when compared to Jack's take on the facts, clearly depict the two different world views on sports. For the businessman, whose every move is motivated by profit, Tiger's performance is no more comprehensible than the tragic triumphs of the sports titans in the days when the pay was peanuts, for neither champion was truly playing for money. However, to the dreamer, who is solely driven by heroic drama, the injured Tiger's triumph is everything. While seemingly unconnected (at least in a practical sense) to the millionaire golfer, the fellow dreamer applies Tiger's unique feat to his own life perhaps initially just to get through another difficult day, but eventually to allow him to believe that, despite his own personal demons, his dreams can too come true.
In the sense that both are intense competitors, neither Jack nor Retief wants to give Tiger quarter prematurely, but in the end there is still a vast difference between these two past champs. While Nicklaus is not ready to concede (yet?) that Tiger is better than him, Goosen cannot conceive that Tiger is not only better than him, but better than him even when playing with a severe injury. Thus, while the true champion, Nicklaus, wishes Woods a speedy and complete recovery so that Tiger can once again resume his quest to pursue Jack's majors title record, thus settling the question on the field, Goosen's bitter jabs reflect a man jealous of the gutsy young guy who stole his glory, who instead wishes his superior opponent would just go away. And, while I have no way of knowing if the red-shirted fist pumper will recover enough to beat Jack's record and earn the title of "The Best Ever," I do know this. I'd rather play one tournament with "The Eye of the Tiger" than a thousand trudging through the Goose's poop.