Philadelphia, PA – There are a lot of ways to quantify Tiger Woods' success -- almost too many. You start thinking about how many majors he's won, the number of records he's set, where he stands on all-time lists, and after a while, it can become desensitizing.
After a while, nothing stands out anymore. When somebody is so good, quantification can become both overwhelming and completely unnecessary.
But after Woods won the AT&T National on Sunday, his third title of the season, the PGA Tour sent out a tweet.
"After today, @TigerWoods has won 74 of his 271 professional starts on the PGA TOUR (27.3 percent)."
Sure, we already knew that he was one of the all-time greats. His PGA Tour wins list is longer than a belly putter, and now, only Sam Snead has more. And I'm not going to jump feet-first into Prediction Pond to speculate what this means for his chances at the British Open next month. That was already a fruitless thing to do with the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters, as well as with the Memorial and U.S. Open. PGA events are good gauges of form, but not crystal balls.
But think about the 74-of-271 figure for a while. Woods has won more than a quarter of every PGA start he's made, and he's still only 36 years old. To put it in perspective, Jack Nicklaus -- who Woods passed Sunday on the all-time wins list -- needed 594 events to notch 73 victories. Yes, they played in different eras, but that's still amazing.
"I've had a number of good years in my career so far, and I feel like I've got a lot more ahead of me," Woods said.
It already feels like we've been through several career lifetimes with Woods, but he's far from done.
It's hard not to think that if Woods were playing a sport other than golf, this kind of resurgence wouldn't be possible. He might eke out some more wins, but would be on the wrong side of the inevitable physical decline. Woods is no spring chicken, but he's also not starting at point guard or quarterback. He likely has a larger window for his career than if he wasn't playing golf.
Then again, Woods may not even concede that. Sunday, he was essentially asked if he could understand why people might have said he wouldn't win again. After all, prior to this year, his last win came in 2009 and he struggled in subsequent years with injury and adjustments to his game, as well as the PR fallout from a self-inflicted sex scandal.
Here was Woods' response:
"Yeah, I won the U.S. Open on a broken leg. I can handle it."
Woods was, of course, referring to his '08 U.S. Open victory over Rocco Mediate. What a wonderful moment, an expert swatting away of what he apparently considered to be an absurd question.
Earlier in his post-win press conference, Woods addressed the topic.
"I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again," Woods said. "That was, I think, what, six months ago. Here we are."
Yes, here we are.
In Woods' consideration, these wins are the result of his adjustments taking root. Between coming back from injury and tweaking his swing and golf game, it would take time, but the victories would come. Doubting that was apparently foolish.
The nature of the constant news cycle -- that need to fill airtime with words and noise and constant evaluation, no matter if any of it makes sense -- is partly responsible for people saying Woods would never win again.
Those kinds of absolutes are generally a bad idea, no matter what you're talking about.
I just find it amusing that Woods pointed it out and focused on the criticism, as though he had something to prove. For the record, I don't think this is what Woods was thinking about as he actually prepared for or played in golf tournaments. He's got way too much focus to let outside influences like that in. But he's not above pointing out the fact that he is, in fact, Tiger Woods and he knows better.
And, you know, if I'd won one out of every four tournaments in my career, maybe I'd feel inclined to do the same thing.