Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez to discuss Tiger Woods’s record-breaking victory in Japan on Monday:
“I really don’t think there’s any question about it any more - Tiger has now proved beyond doubt that he’s the greatest golfer to have ever played the game.
The things he does are extraordinary. Most players have to play their way into form, not this guy. He’s able to go straight back into competition after yet another operation on his knee and immediately perform at his best.
It was a simply superb display to win by three strokes at the Zozo Championship against a world-class field.
You have to take your hat off to Jack Nicklaus’s record in the Majors, of course. He strung together 18 wins and umpteen second-place and third-place finishes but we’ve all surely got to agree that Tiger has brought unique worldwide attention to the game.
Everywhere he goes, the fans and the media flock. The distractions he has to encounter are second to none but the way he approaches the sport from a mental point of view is something to behold.
His wise father prepared him for all that at a young age, regularly clapping at the top of his backswing to make sure he was always ready to block out what was going on around him.
Tiger really does possess an amazing strength of mind and he does things in golf that no one else has managed.
This sport is the hardest game of them all. As a top player you have to deal with so many variables to win a tournament - wind, rain, different venues week after week and it takes a lot to battle through all those elements over four days of competition to reign supreme come the end.
Tiger’s ability to do that is like no other. Everything he does is about getting his mind in the best shape possible. He seemed to have all that figured out long ago and all power to him.
When you measure his 82 PGA Tour wins to Sam Snead’s 82 there really is no comparison. Sam’s victories came in a completely different era against much smaller fields and some of the tournaments may even have been pro-am formats.
Tiger beats Sam hands-down when it comes down to percentages of tournaments won. It’s a superlative career he’s having and we can truly label him a phenomenon.
His golf is one thing but the thing that really intrigues me is the way he thinks about the game. I’ve spoken to Michael Campbell about this a few times.
Michael held him off to win the US Open in 2005. He played with him a lot in his prime and knows the guy pretty well. He has explained in detail some of the mental processes Tiger puts himself through in order to maintain 100 percent focus and concentration on the task in hand.
Again, Tiger does things no one else does. He employs little tricks to make sure he remains in that cocoon of concentration all winners need to find.
For example, he times exactly how long it takes for a putt to reach the hole and he also counts how many footsteps he takes in one minute when he’s out on the course. These are all little exercises designed to keep his mind in the zone.
Most players talk about being in the zone. I remember finding that cocoon of concentration a few times when I was in my heyday but in my case it was more about luck than judgement.
Tiger’s been doing these mental exercises from day one. He’s got them all figured out and if his body holds up for him, we are going to see him in the winners’ circle many more times.
The modern era in golf really started when Arnold Palmer’s arrival on the scene coincided with TV exposure to the game. Arnold eventually passed on the baton to Jack and he in turn passed it on to Tiger.
It will be interesting now to see if there’s a new heir out there somewhere who can take over the throne from Tiger.”