Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tiger vs Michael

Angelos linked to a story by Bill Posnanski recently (I'd leave the link but this is an email post). The story was about Tiger and how he's an enigma. He related a story about Tiger and Michael Jordan playing in a pro-am together. They were joking around until they both hit the green and had makeable putts. Something like 15' for Tiger and 5' for Michael. They had a situation where they both had putts within their respective abilities, but not gimmes. Being the uber-competitive guys they are, the joking subsided and they concentrated on winning. Tiger nailed his and then stared down Michael, who yipped and pulled his putt left. Michael said "I'm a professional, but not at this game." Posnanski says "Everyone laughed, including Tiger. But the point was
made."

I read this and it didn't feel right to me. If the point is that Tiger is a more fierce, unflappable competitor, I don't think this story shows that. It's not fair to Jordan. Mental toughness comes in different flavors. The kind of toughness it takes to stand over a 12' putt to win a tournament and sink it is one variety. A related but different variety is the toughness it takes to run down the court with tens of thousands of people screaming at the top of their lungs, body nearly
worn out, people waving flags and towels, defenders jostling you and running at you full speed, and swish a 30' game-winner. If Tiger can make that 12' putt in those conditions (I have this mental image of a sweaty Phil Mickelson charging Tiger as he's standing over his putt),
then maybe I'll grant that he's tougher than Jordan. Until then, I'd call it a draw.

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10 comments:

John Howard said...

Yeah, that anecdote doesn't really tell me much of anything, other than that Tiger is a better golfer, which we knew already. Something tells me Jordan could take still take him on the court.

michelline said...

As athletes, golfers just do not compare to basketball players. Tiger might be a great golfer, but I wouldn't call him a phenomenal athlete, like Michael Jordan is.

John Howard said...

Tiger Woods is certainly a phenomenal athlete.

Angelos said...

Interesting take.

What I took from the anecdote was more about the mental aspect. Jordan was psyched out on a gimme.

There isn't a basketball player alive who ever got into Jordan's head on the court. But playing Tiger gave him the yips.

And michelline, "golfers" in general, of course do not compare with basketball players.

Tiger, specifically, does. The guy is a fitness/strength monster.

John Howard said...

I don't know how you could possibly conclude that from this single anecdote, Angelos. The post actually said the putts were not gimmes, so he's not going to make it every time. Neither is Tiger, for that matter, though he'll make it more than anyone else.

And even if Tiger did get into his head on the golf course, that doesn't really tell me much about the mental toughness of either player. Playing with Tiger can get in anyone's head, even the best golfers in the world. And again, I expect the results would be reversed if you could somehow switch the situation to a basketball one.

Chris Howard said...

What I took from the anecdote was more about the mental aspect. Jordan was psyched out on a gimme.

I agree that Tiger psyched him out. I just don't know that it makes him a tougher competitor overall. Probably the closest situation Jordan would have faced in basketball is a crucial free throw. Dos Tiger play any basketball? I would guess not, but if he did, I wonder how he would do in a pickup game with Jordan?

And Tiger is definitely an athlete. He won the open on a broken leg.

VMH said...

Golf is a much more mentally challenging game than basketball. What separates Tiger from his peers is he is much more mentally tough. I don't think there is a shot Tiger can make than Michelson can't make.

Compare Jordan with Kobe, the separation between them is as much physical skills as mental toughness.

John Howard said...

Compare Jordan with Kobe, the separation between them is as much physical skills as mental toughness.

I don't think that's true. I'm not sure there's much separation between these two at all, whether physical or mental. Certainly nowhere near the separation there is between Tiger and Phil.

Mr Furious said...

I'm not even sure I'd attribute Jordon's miss as a choke instigated by Tiger...

Either way, Jordon lost a hole to the greatest golfer alive, doesn't mean he's less competitive.

I look forward to the rematch dunk contest after Tiger's leg heals.

Angelos said...

I'm not even sure I'd attribute Jordon's miss as a choke instigated by Tiger...

I would, Furious. Five feet is the equivalent of a free throw. He yakked.

And I agree with John. Kobe has all of Michael's skills, and is probably a better jump shooter. He is lacking in the intangibles department. Leadership, etc.