Mike Pesca is a reporter who has covered economics, politics and the arts during his tenure at National Public Radio. He is currently NPR's Sports Correspondent.
By the standard of normal golfing mortals, Tiger Woods has had an incredible summer. He's won multiple tournaments and millions of dollars in prize money. What he didn't do was win any of golf's four major championships, and that has led some to write off Woods' 2013 as a failure.
He's had the most top 10 finishes on the PGA tour this year, but for him, that's not the measure of success. Woods has won more money on the tour than any of his peers, but for him, money isn't the measure. Woods has won five tournaments this year; the next closest competitor has only two wins. That's impressive for anybody.
"But for him, it's about major championships, and it's been a while," says Bill Rosinski of PGA Tour Radio. Rosinski has been following Woods round after round this year, including in such tournaments as the Bridgestone Invitational (which he crushed), the PGA (where he struggled to a 40th-place finish) and the Masters (where he came in fourth). But ask most golfers on the tour, including Adam Scott, the man who won the Masters, and they'll tell you who the player of the year is.
"Tiger," Scott said of Woods' five tournament wins. "Tiger's had the best year."
But when Scott was asked at this week's The Barclays golf tournament in Jersey City. N.J., if he'd trade his one win this season and the green jacket that goes with it for Woods' five, he replied: "I'd rather have mine, that's for sure. I really don't know, he may want mine. I mean, No. 15 is proving to be difficult for him."
Indeed, Woods would rather have Scott's season.
"I'd take the major," Woods says.
Woods, also speaking before play began at The Barclays, said he'd trade all his wins this season for what would be his 15th major, pulling closer to Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18. But Woods is still is proud of his accomplishments.
"This year's been a great year so far. I've won at two of my favorite venues, plus winning two World Golf Championships and a Players [Championship] in there, it's been pretty good," Woods says.
Five or six years ago the phrase "pretty good" as applied to Tiger Woods would have been ironic. Now it is being put forth as simply descriptive. And to a lot of Woods' peers, that's not fair. Fellow pro Bill Haas says it's "sad" that the assessment of Woods has come to be dominated by talk of his losses at the majors. "Ignorant," he called it. Jason Dufner, who won the PGA Championship two weeks ago, says that Woods' greatness has come to be taken for granted.
"I think he spoils the media, the fans, with how well he plays, because then people think that other players should play at that level," Dufner says.
But there's also the opinion that Woods should be in a class above, a class that necessarily includes wins on the biggest stages.
"We hold him and he holds himself to that standard, and it's just the way it is," Rosinski says.
But has it been a disappointing year by Woods' own standards?
"[By] my standards it's a great year," Woods says.
There are a number of empirically based awards that Woods is all but sure to win, and he has a comfortable lead on the money list. The Player of the Year award is granted by a vote of all tour golfers. Three of the last four years it went to a golfer who didn't win a major. This year, if it goes to Woods, it will be an entry on a resume that perhaps unfairly has come to be defined by four major tournaments and little else.