Friday, January 7, 2011

Tiger's Psychic Concussion

I missed this piece about Tiger Woods and why he will NOT break Jack Nicklaus' record for major championships.

I found it quite convincing. But then I find just about everything Charles Murray writes convincing. (I especially liked the caveat under the headline "Why Tiger Won't Catch Jack" at the beginning in which Murray says:
I know, I know: This essay guarantees that Tiger Woods will win the PGA Championship in a few weeks and win all four major golf championships next year. But even if he does, he shouldn’t have, in theory, which is the most important thing. Here’s why:
He sums it up thusly:
The combination of qualities that enabled Nicklaus to win 18 majors and has enabled Woods to win 14 is freakish. To take just one example, Woods has an astonishing record of sinking difficult putts at critical moments, including on the final hole with victory at stake. That’s not just a matter of reading the greens accurately and having a good putting stroke. It’s a product of a mental state that the rest of us can barely imagine, the product of a Chinese puzzle of psychological strengths—including, one sometimes suspects, telekinesis.

The role of those psychological strengths is why so much of the commentary about Woods’s play since he returned is beside the point. The commentators focus on whether his component skills are returning to their pre-scandal levels. He can return to precisely the same place on the bell curves of the component skills that he occupied before the meltdown in his personal life, but the package will not be the same. Tiger Woods has experienced a sort of concussion to that Chinese puzzle of psychological strengths, and there must be some residual damage that won’t ever go away.

The long-term effects can be quite small. When we are talking about the extremes of human accomplishment, there is no wiggle room. The package changed at all is no longer at the one-in-many-millions extreme that is required. Woods will still be a sensational golfer, winning a lot of tournaments and probably a few more majors. But to predict that Woods can win five majors between now and the end of his career—something that only 17 other golfers have done in their entire careers—assumes that nothing in the last year has significantly degraded the freakish combination required for extreme accomplishment. I find that assumption untenable.
Well, we know Tiger didn't win the PGA last year. So for Murray's theory, so far so good.


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