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Tiger Woods' critics are missing the point

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Tiger Woods had plenty reason to smile coming down the 18th fairway Sunday. (Getty)


It's a mean and cynical world we live in, sports fans. What, you haven't been on social media of late? Or, as rapper Macklemore asks, have you read the YouTube comments lately?

So, when Tiger Woods obliterates the world's best players in a World Golf Championship event, winning the Bridgestone Invitational by seven whopping strokes, when he looks the world's top 50 practitioners of his craft in the eye and says: "Tell me how my Nikes taste", you'd think you wouldn't hear what I heard at a local golf clubhouse this weekend:

"Hey, look!" said a fellow duffer. "Tiger's winning another tournament that's not a major."

In case you were wondering, yes, the commenter was applying a liberal amount of snark.

[Related: Tiger Woods celebrates win with son Charlie]

Or you'd think I wouldn't get a text from a fellow golf fanatic that read: "His year's still a failure if he doesn't win next week [at the PGA Championship]."

Here we go again, the devil and angel on each shoulder, warring over Tiger's relative place in golf history:

• Tiger Woods wins for the fifth time this year in ten stroke play starts! So what? He hasn't won a major since George W. Bush was president.

• Tiger Woods just won at Akron for the eighth time! So what? That's all he does, win on courses he owns like Torrey Pines and Bay Hill. Let's see him at Oak Hill for the PGA Championship, where he's never won.

• Tiger has now won 12 times by seven strokes or more, and since he turned pro, the next highest total by a player is two! So what? Have you seen an Instagram of his last major win? No, because he hasn't won one since Instagram was launched.

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Tiger Woods holds the trophy after winning the Bridgestone Invitational. (AP)

• Tiger Woods just won for the 79th time on the PGA Tour, and is only three wins from tying Sam Snead's all-time record – and Tiger is just 37 years old, with at least another decade of prime play to obliterate that record! So what? The only number that matters is Jack's 18, and Tiger's 14 ain't there yet.

And so it goes.

Tough crowd, those Tiger Judgers.

The same way LeBron James was scolded by the sporting public for never winning a championship; the same way Alex Rodriguez (pre-Biogenesis shame) was held in disdain for woeful October numbers; there is something about us as fans that often sees us shelve common sense in place of crazed and delirious expectations.

What Tiger Woods has done in 2013 is nothing short of remarkable, staggering and, perhaps put best: Tiger-esque. By winning percentage of starts-to-wins, no player in golf history wins with the frequency of Tiger Woods. Not even close. He's won 27 percent of starts. Jack won 12 percent of his starts. So that essentially answers any questions about his place in history, right?

Apparently not, given some of the shoulder shrugs of some fans this weekend.

With Tiger, we'll just have to agree to let his career play out before overly simplistic conclusions – "He's done"; "He'll never pass Jack" – are tossed out. He could easily be the type of player who is winning majors consistently into his mid-40s, given his historic work ethic and desire. Heck, I think the guy who won the British Open last month at Muirfield was 43, wasn't he?

In the meantime, Tiger heads to Oak Hill with a .500 season win percentage, with the résumé of a Player of the Year, and with the nagging whispers from some you'd usually reserve for an also-ran, a disappointment. It's the damndest thing.

SCORECARD OF THE WEEK

67-72-69-72 – 8-under 280, Stacy Lewis, winner, LPGA Ricoh Women's British Open, St. Andrews Golf Course, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland.

Look at Stacy Lewis, getting her Philly Mick on.

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Stacy Lewis celebrates after winning the Women's British Open at St Andrews. (AP)

Both are Americans, winning in golf's birthplace. Both stole thunder from bigger stories – Mickelson from Brit Lee Westwood's quest for his first major; Lewis from Korean Inbee Park's bid for four consecutive majors. And best of all, both finished in brilliant fashion – Lefty making birdie on the final two holes of a legendary final-round 66; Lewis making birdie on the final two holes, to chase down and pass leader Na Yeon Choi. That birdie-birdie finish featured an approach on 17's Road Hole to two feet, a shot Lewis called "the best shot I've ever hit, for sure."

So much was accomplished by Lewis, perhaps most of all an end to the American drought in majors. It had been 10 LPGA majors since a Yank last won one, back to the 2011 Kraft Nabisco won, of course, by Lewis herself.

With Park under almost impossible pressure to win a fourth consecutive major, it was nice to see a worthy and likable talent swoop in to pose with hardware on the Swilcan Bridge. After all, we sometimes forget Lewis was No. 1 in the world before Inbee Park's World Domination Tour launched, and that Lewis is still No. 2 in the world right now.

It was also nice to see proper respect given to the Home of Golf. Lewis said her 5-0 record as a Curtis Cup participant for Team USA at St. Andrews in 2008 came because of the same reason she dug deep for the win on Sunday – her awe and wonder at playing the historic links course. Inspired by merely being on the property, Lewis was able to summon and channel golf karma.

BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK

"…and the joy of walking away, with his son in his arms." – Jim Nantz, CBS, on the surprising and memorable sight of little Charlie Woods running into the grasp of his Daddy, Tiger Woods, after the win at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. 

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Charlie Woods (R) smiles as his father Tiger Woods approaches the 18th green. (USA Today)

Whoa. This one made me sit up and take notice on my living room couch. 

My first thought was: I don't think we've ever seen this, and then Tiger confirmed it to the golf media. No, little Charlie, age 4 ½, had never seen Daddy win in person.

Given Tiger's well-publicized family woes, given how often he was the butt of jokes for years, given the scorn that has often been pointed his way, it was as human a moment as we've seen with Tiger since perhaps his tears at the 2006 British Open after his father's death. It was made more so when Charlie realized there were cameras everywhere and tightened his hug around Daddy's neck, burying his head into Daddy's shoulder. What father hasn't carried a child who clings to the neck and shoulder area like a cute little koala clings to a branch?

At the risk of too much dime-store psychoanalysis – what 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh disdainfully calls the media's attempts to "peel back the onion" – let's just say that Charlie in Daddy's arms was a positive moment for Tiger Woods in the public's eye.

MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK

What, you think we're going to find a worthy Mully o' the Week from Akron, where Tiger was moonwalking past the field in as non-competitive an event as we'll see all year? No way.

Let's turn our attention to St. Andrews, where Stacy Lewis' thrilling finish must have stunned Korea's Na Yeon Choi. One minute, Choi had the outright lead. The next minute, Lewis came to the Road Hole and assumed her Road Runner persona, flying past Choi like she was Wile E. Coyote.

Choi had a 6-foot putt for par on 17 to stay one shot back of Lewis, and if she made it, as you presumed she would, she'd come to 18, a very birdie-able hole, with a chance for some drama.

Except . . . Choi missed the 6-footer for par. Like, badly missed it. Like, never gave it a chance. It died, far away from the cup. Oof.

For Lewis, this was great news, as Choi would now have the unlikely task of holing out for eagle on 18, which of course she would not do. But for the rest of us, looking for a little Sunday morning drama from St. Andrews, Choi could have helped keep the storyline alive by making par on 17, not bogey.

So let's go back out to the Road Hole, remind Choi that it's her obligation to entertain us and keep drama alive, remind her that it's just a little ole 6-footer and ... give that woman a mulligan!

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Yes, the PGA of America calls the PGA Championship, "Glory's Last Shot", and while that slogan has a cheesy "One Shining Moment" ring to it, I'm here to tell you: I love "One Shining Moment." So there.

So bring on "Glory's Last Shot", at venerable Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., where Cary Middlecoff won the 1956 U.S. Open, where Lee Trevino won the 1968 U.S. Open, where Jack Nicklaus won the 1980 PGA Championship, where Curtis Strange won the 1989 U.S. Open and where Shaun Micheel – hey, now! – won the 2003 PGA Championship.

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Will Tiger Woods finally capture another major? (USA Today)

If you're counting, that's four World Golf Hall of Famers, and Shaun Micheel. But! Did any of those four big-name players hit a 7-iron from 175 yards out to two inches on the 72nd hole for a two-stroke win like Micheel? I think not, friends. Micheel's shot is one of the greatest in major championship history.

Who will create such heroics at Oak Hill, a notoriously brutal golf course that winnows out the weak and only rewards the strong? Well, if 2013's pattern holds, it won't be Tiger Woods. The world's No. 1-ranked player has had to watch Adam Scott win his first Masters, Justin Rose win his first U.S. Open and then his old rival Phil Mickelson win his first British Open. There's no rule that says the winner has to be a first-time PGA Championship winner, but there are several names who would fit that bill: Brandt Snedeker ... Zach Johnson ... Jason Dufner ... Bill Haas ... you get my drift.

If Tiger is going to end this drought and shut up doubters once and for flippin' all, he'll have to overcome a strong field at a place where he doesn't have great history. He finished tie-39th at the '03 PGA and never once broke par at 12-over for the tournament.

In 2007, Tiger won the WGC event at Bridgestone, then marched to victory at Southern Hills in Tulsa, a place where he had no positive history. So, there's that.

There's also this: Seven times since then, Tiger has won his final start before a major, and he is 0-for-7 at the ensuing major.

As a wise man once said: That's why they play the games. Let's see what he does.

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