Azinger: Why Tiger Woods has an edge on today’s young players

January 3, 2020

It’s no secret that in his heydey, Tiger Woods enjoyed a huge edge on his competitors. He was fearless, intimidating, and most of all, clutch.

But all of that appeared to change in the wake of the Big Cat’s personal issues and injuries over the last decade. Young players who had grown up idolizing Woods suddenly found themselves paired with — and sometimes handily beating — the onetime unflappable World No. 1.

But beginning in 2018, the pendulum began to swing back in the other direction. Woods returned to competitive golf after recovering from more surgery, and, improbably, won the Tour Championship — his first victory in over five years. A few short months later, Woods won the Masters, his 15th major. Then he won the Zozo Championship to match Sam Snead’s record of 82 career wins. And then Woods went undefeated in the Presidents Cup, 3-0, as the first playing captain since Hale Irwin in 1994.

Woods, now 44 years old, has boldly let his clubs do the talking to reclaim his peers’ respect, and according to NBC Sports golf analyst Paul Azinger, Woods has also reclaimed the edge that was lacking in recent years — though it’s a slightly different version of it this time around.

At the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui on Wednesday, Azinger held court with scrum of reporters, answering questions about the tournament and the current state of the game. When he was asked if he thinks Tiger could get to 100 wins, Azinger responded in the affirmative.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said. “Vijay pulled off 20-something in his 40s. And another dynamic I think you have to watch for is we were all scared to death of Tiger in some capacity. These guys are scared in a different way. Do they idolize him to a fault? That’s the question. It looks like they idolize him to me. I hope they want to whip his a–. But, how are you going to take a guy down that you idolize? It makes it hard.”

Though Woods is not in the field in Maui, he’s expected to play in the upcoming Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, which begins on January 23.

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