After leading his team to a dramatic comeback win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in January 2018, Tom Brady was asked if an injury to his throwing hand had bothered him during the game.
“I think it’s kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn’t say that,” the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. “It’s like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”
We’ll forgive Brady if he’s not quoting Woods exactly, but the reference is clear: in a different era, Woods knew he could contend — and even win — with far less than his best stuff. More importantly, Brady was drawing a proper connection between himself and Woods. It’s a tie that runs deep.
While both Woods and Brady were California kids born in the mid-70s, the true similarities didn’t arise until midway through their careers, once they’d established themselves as contenders for greatest ever. In June 2008, arguably the peak of his powers (he had nine wins and 12 top 5s in his previous 12 tournaments), Woods won the U.S. Open on a bum leg, edging out Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff before admitting he had a torn ACL, among other injuries. Brady entered 2008 coming off a record-setting, near-perfect MVP season (50 touchdown passes) before going down in September with an ACL (and MCL) tear, too.
Each rebounded quickly in 2009; Woods won seven tournaments while Brady grabbed Comeback Player of the Year. But not long afterwards came questions about the beginning of the end. Brady suffered a string of disappointing playoff losses; Woods vanished after a public scandal. For several years, they took down no majors nor Super Bowls.
But then came a career resurgence, for both of them. Woods won five tournaments in 2013 and regained his title as world No. 1. In 2014, Brady took down the Seahawks for his first Super Bowl title in a decade. And in February 2019, Brady cemented his legacy with a sixth Super Bowl win. Two months later, Woods completed an all-time great sports comeback with a win at the Masters, his 15th career major and first in over a decade. Brady was watching.
My only couch day of the year. https://t.co/EvhfWUF9VK
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) April 13, 2019
The parallels in career arc are fascinating, and make more sense when you dive into their shared characteristics. They’re each relentless, single-minded competitors. They’ve changed the way others in their sport prepare in terms of diet and exercise. Both are wildly famous but have never relished the off-course spotlight. Most interestingly, both Woods and Brady are underrated for just how conservative their styles of play really are. Because of their meticulous, exacting natures, they’ve often not needed to take wild risks to win. Whether it’s Brady throwing the ball away to avoid a sack or Woods hitting iron off the tee where others pound driver, each has an impressive commitment to his game plan. Discipline helps get you to the top.
The Brady-Woods comparisons all started as a topic of discussion on our latest Drop Zone podcast. We dived all the way in — I started with Brady-Woods and we went on to find the equivalents for Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers and more. I’ll let co-host Sean Zak explain his Kirk Cousins-Rickie Fowler comparison in his own words. Check it out below! We give out PGA Tour season awards, introduce a brand-new King-Collins golf course and dive into Abe Ancer’s blossoming career.
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