BLACK GOLF CLUB NEWS: Michael Jordan Settles Tiger Woods vs. Jack Nicklaus Debate? ‘It’s an Unfair Parallel’
The superstars have a great deal of overlap. On the business side of things, they represented the Nike brand for two different audiences. But it’s their mutual love for golf that closely intertwines them. When MJ was asked about the Woods-versus-Jack Nicklaus debate, he had an interesting take.
According to the PGA Tour‘s official website, Jordan discovered golf during his time at the University of South Carolina in 1984. His roommate befriended a member of the school’s golf team, who invited Jordan to hit some balls for the first time. The future NBA legend immediately took an interest and was given a set of old cobbled-together clubs and balls.
Like anything Jordan set his mind to, it became an obsession. He started terribly, only making par on one of 17 holes. The feeling of hitting par lit a fire in him that never went out. Even as he rose through the NBA ranks, even as he became a constant presence in the NBA Finals, he fit in golf wherever he could.While Jordan never became a professional golfer, he was far more than your average amateur. He regularly participates as a captain in the Ryder Cup, according to NBC Sports. He plays casual games against top golfers and sometimes even beats them, USA Today reports. He’s a full-on ambassador for the sport.Jordan’s golf fandom naturally led him to become close friends with Woods for years. Tiger independently landed with Nike as a promotional partner, which made the pair a natural fit to appear in public together, reports Golf.com. Jordan, who almost always reserves effusive praise for sports legends of the past, made a rare exception for Woods. He became his biggest fan, and wasn’t shy about airing it in public.
Most of Jordan’s talk was about Woods’ game. But he notably made a point of praising Tiger for his contribution to perceptions of the sport. A TMZ report points out that Jordan thinks Woods played a huge role in making golf more than “a white guy’s sport,” and into a game for everybody.
The friendship between the two unfortunately chilled in 2009, when Tiger’s personal life became a liability. But the two appear to have mended things since. Jordan publicly praised Woods for picking up the pieces of his public reputation and coming back strong as both a man and a golfer. The two plan to make public charity golf appearances together soon.
Both Jordan and Woods defined a whole generation’s perception of their respective sports. But are they truly the greatest of all time? Is it even possible to pin that down?
Jordan, in a recent interview with Cigar Aficionado, has an intriguing perspective on the debate. “Obviously Jack won more during the time he played,” the six-time NBA champion said. “But Tiger evolved [golf] to where it crossed a lot of different boundaries[…] Does that mean he’s any less than Jack? I think [the sentiment] is unfair.”
He went on to apply the same logic to himself. Many would say that Jordan is the best basketball player of all time. But Bill Russell, with his 11 championship rings — more than he has fingers for — has Jordan easily beat in that category. “I would never say one is greater than the other,” Jordan concluded. It’s all about context, about who meant the most during their respective eras.
The last decade hasn’t been great to Tiger Woods compared to the decade before. Woods sunk about as low as an athlete can back in 2009. Yet he somehow managed to climb back up the golf mountain just last year. How did Woods do it despite insurmountable odds? According to Woods‘ former caddie Steve Williams, he may have emulated golf legend, Arnold Palmer.
Palmer was one of the greatest golfers to ever live — a version of Woods before Woods ever stepped on a course. According to Britannica.com, Palmer took the game by storm in the ’50s and ’60s with an “unorthodox swing” and an “aggressive approach.” He was the first pro golfer to net four victories at Augusta in the Masters, winning in 1958, 1962, and 1964.
Palmer also has the distinction of being the first player on the PGA Tour to earn $1 million worth of prize money. Palmer played professionally in some form or another (meaning PGA or Senior Tour events) until 2006. He ended up with 92 career tournament victories, 62 of which came on the PGA Tour.
Palmer was one of the most well-liked and respected golfers throughout his career. He was also a successful businessman.Following his career, he served as a spokesman for many companies while also acting as a consultant and helping design golf courses.
Of course, his most famous achievement outside the world of golf may be the drink that bears his name: one day he asked his wife to mix lemonade and iced tea, and “the Arnold Palmer” was born. The drink has become a standby at golf clubs, restaurants, and kitchens worldwide.
To call Woods the Palmer of his day would hardly be an understatement. Seemingly since before he could walk, Woods has been heralded first as a golf prospect and then as one of the game’s greatest players. Woods’ career has been a tale of two eras, however: pre-2009 and post-2009.
Before 2009, Woods was sitting on top of the world. He burst onto the scene with a massive victory at the 1997 Masters when he was only 21 years old. According to Biography.com, Woods won 13 major tournaments over the next 12 years. He was also named PGA Player of the Year a whopping ten times during that span. Then came 2009. Woods ran into marital issues when reports of his infidelity surfaced. Woods reportedly had affairs with numerous women. His marriage dissolved. This turmoil within his personal life on top of multiple injuries and his own aging represented a significant setback for him. Eventually, through hard work and perseverance, Woods returned to form. He won the 2019 Masters after an 11-year drought of major victories. So how did Woods turn things around?
In an article for Athlete’s Voice, Woods’ former caddie Williams said it was Palmer who inspired Woods to change things for the better. Palmer passed away in 2016, which preceded Woods’ return to form:
“It was about a year after Arnold died that Tiger started his comeback after his back surgery, and I think he may have decided that with his second chance he wanted to be remembered the way Arnold was remembered.”
Despite caddying for Woods for many years, Williams and Woods did not have a great end to their professional relationship. Putting that aside, Williams still rooted for his old boss to get a victory. There’s no question that Williams’s insight into Woods’ mindset means that Palmer likely served as a point of inspiration for him.