Tiger Woods: Is His Mystique Coming to a Close?

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IJune 25, 2013

Tiger Woods, winner of 14 major championships
Tiger Woods, winner of 14 major championshipsRob Carr/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh have overcome Tiger Woods' presence to win major championships during the Tiger Woods era. Had Woods not been around, each of them would likely be in double digits in majors.

Woods's persona as well as his golf game stifled their abilities to win more of the big ones. But is that era coming to a close?

For the first 15 years of Tiger's career as a professional golfer, most who came up against him hit a brick wall. Some, like Sergio Garcia, became downright demoralized when trying to beat Woods week in and week out...even more so at major championships. 

But Mickelson, Els, Singh and more recently Adam Scott have found a path to tournament titles and major championships after being beaten soundly by Woods.  They've overcome hype, overcome headlines, overcomes their own defeats and demons.

To be able to do that in their 40s shows how really outstanding Mickelson, Els and Singh are. To overcome it before that, as Adam Scott has, proves it's never too late to get great.

A parallel is often made between Jack Nicklaus and Woods. Many times, they won tournaments because the other guys on the leaderboard saw Nicklaus' or Woods's names and just started backing up.

"When guys show up in the locker room, the first thing they do is look at the leaderboard and see where he's at, and he's usually up on top," Mickelson has said in the past.

A name with game is all that matters. It can cause the tiny lapse in concentration. A wrong thought when the putter hits the ball. A miniscule twitch in the downswing. Small differences that add up to mistakes and a stroke or two on the back nine on Sunday. 

Singh was the first to take on Tiger Woods with a frontal assault. He had a cap during a Presidents Cup that read "Tiger Who?"

After winning a PGA Championship in 1998 and the Masters in 2000, Singh still needed training off the course plus a streak of nine titles including the PGA Championship in 2004 to move Woods off the No. 1 pedestal for 32 weeks.     

Els won his first U.S. Open in 1994, two years before Woods turned professional. He has had three stints as world No. 1, yet for the bulk of his career, he has faced down the irrepressible Tiger Woods.

All credit where it is due, Els managed three additional majors during the prolific Woods era and bested him most recently at The Open Championship in 2012. Els is one of few golfers to win major championships in three decades. 

Mickelson was the advance party, winning first as an amateur in 1991 at Tucson, a tournament that is no longer held. He won nine tournaments before Woods turned professional and 10 before Woods won the 1997 Masters.

It took Mickelson 11 seasons, from 1993 to 2004, to win his first big one, The Masters. All the while, Woods captured major after major. However, for as many chances as Woods has taken from Mickelson, Mickelson himself has let just as many get away. 

Mickelson has had 18 top-five finishes in majors; 14 of those were third place or runner-up.  

After going through several disappointments at the hand of Woods in majors and other important events, Mickelson learned to embrace the challenge of playing with Woods.

"Early on I did not play my best golf when we were paired together, and now I find that I am, and I enjoy the pairing and it brings out my best game," he has since said.  "But I think that when he's in the field, certainly that's the first thing you look at on the scoreboard, on the leaderboard, is what did Tiger shoot?"

Scott has been a professional for just a dozen seasons, starting on the European Tour in 2000. For a time he shared coaches with Tiger, and some in the media suspected Scott may have found it difficult to come up against his practice mate at the Accenture Match Play in 2003 where they went head-to-head in the finals.  

Like everyone else in golf, Scott watched Woods rack up major after major. 

"The difference between winning and not for the last couple years for me has been balancing on a knife's edge, really." Adam Scott said after wining The Masters.  "I felt last year like I could have won three of the majors with pivotal moments going my way or not, and I didn't win any of them."

As newcomers like Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose enter the major championship scene and the 40-somethings age up to the Champions Tour, the days of Woods dominating and intimidating fields at major championships are coming to a close.

A new era is at hand.   


Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.