Tariq’s Column -jcr -dlh

Tariq Engineer

There hasn’t been a Masters this anticipated since Tiger Woods set the stage for the Tiger slam in 2001. With a win any of three men can lay claim to being the best golfer in the world. Win, and a fourth can move much, much closer to the same title.
But there is more at stake this week than simply being the best. History is watching among the azaleas, waiting for the dust to settle on Sunday eve, and for one man to stand tallest and claim the prize. Greatness is not measured by formulae, but by major championships, as these men know all too well.
Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are the major protagonists in this drama. Singh is the number one ranked golfer in the world. The man who ended Tiger Wood’s stranglehold at the top of the rankings last year, and the man who won the last major championship of 2004. He is the oldest of the four, and therefore perhaps the one with the most to gain. If his legacy is to be secure, it must be secured now.
Tiger Woods returned to the top of the rankings for a brief moment earlier in the year. He has won twice already, but has gone a startling (for him) ten major championships without claiming the winner’s trophy. Woods has always measured himself against history, making a habit of rising to the occasion. His long dry spell could only have made him more eager to meet the challenge that lies ahead. Yet it remains to be seen whether or not Woods is, in fact, up to meeting to it.
2004 should have crushed Ernie Els’ spirit. A year of near misses such as the ones he experienced are enough to scar even the strongest mind. Els, however, is showing no negative aftereffects. He has won twice on the European PGA tour, in some style too, and appears determined to ensure that there is no repeat of 2004. He has finished in the top six at the Masters the last five years, and wants to win this tournament more than any other.
Finally we come to Phil Mickelson, the defending champion and former best player never to have won a major championship. Mickelson’s sensational victory last year finally lifted the monkey off his back. This year Lefty brings a new strategy; a more attacking, less conservative style of play, to the year’s first major. The new strategy has resulted in three wins so far this year, but whether it translates as well in major championship situations is still undecided, that is at least until Sunday.
Four men, one goal. History will be the final judge.