Veteran sportswriters love golf. I don’t know what it is, but every Sunday following a Major, every scribe over 50 in the country suddenly becomes Mark Sanford and starts writing about golf as though it were their Argentinean soul mate. For that reason, I’m going to leave it to the Mike Lupica’s and Rick Reilly’s (you’ll have to wait until Wednesday for Mr. Reilly) of the world to discuss what YE Yang’s come-from-behind victory over Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship means for the history of golf.
I’ll just point the obvious out: You can spin it however you want, but Tiger shit the bed. It wasn’t quite the Yankees in 2004 or the USSR hockey team in 1980 (I consider those the two biggest chokes in sports history), but it was significantly worse than Michigan losing to Appalachian State or the Mets September collapse in 2007.
The best comparison to Tiger’s breakdown might actually be Mike Tyson’s loss to Buster Douglas in 1990. Think about it. Each was the best in the world at his respective sport (Tiger still is). They were insane betting favorites (An Irish sportsbook paid out to those who bet on Woods before play began on Saturday and leading up to the Tyson/Douglas fight, virtually no sportsbook would even take bets because it was expected to be so lopsided.). And while Tyson was undefeated overall, Tiger had never lost when leading a Major heading into the weekend.
The end-result wasn’t a Yang and Douglas win so much as a Tiger and Tyson loss. Tiger played too conservatively on Saturday and watched everything go right for his opponent on Sunday. Tyson didn’t take his challenger seriously and fought virtually the entire fight with vision in only one eye thanks to his cornermen forgetting to bring an endswell to the ring.
Add it all up and voila! You’ve got two of the most memorable choke acts in sports history.
Of course, that’s probably where the comparison between Tiger Woods and Mike Tyson ends. Something tells me Woods will never take a chunk out of Phil Mickelson’s ear (although it would make golf infinitely more entertaining) and considering his biggest offense to date is swearing on the golf course, I doubt he’s going to end up in the clink.
But it should be pointed out that for the first time in five years, Tiger Woods will not be the defending champion at any Major and despite playing pretty well this weekend, he still missed the cut at the British Open and wasn’t really in contention on Sunday at either the U.S. Open or the Masters.
Will he bounce back from what must be considered a failure of a season? Or can Jack Nicklaus breathe a little easier today?
Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. But history shows that some athletes and teams are never the same following their most noteworthy collapses.
Just ask Mike Tyson.
If you can find him.