For years, the “Tiger Effect” was as noticeable on Sundays as the iconic red and black ensemble adorned by its namesake. The effect prophesied the implosion of countless mortal golfers whenever Tiger Woods was lurking near the top of the leaderboard.
The Tiger Effect is so deeply ingrained in golf lore, it has its own Wikipedia page. In 2011, the Journal of Political Economy published a 30-page study that found that on average, PGA Tour players perform .8 strokes worse per tournament when Tiger is playing than when he is not. Even superstars like Rory McIlroy admit they can feel when he’s in the hunt.
“Just sorta having that little glimpse of red in your eye,” McIlroy said. “A hundred percent. I mean, he knows that he intimidates people and it’s like, ‘I’m going to make you feel my presence.’”
Evidently, the Tiger Effect hasn’t faded over time, or at least, that’s the lesson Tiger’s historic Masters victory last year taught SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt.
“In golf, the only thing you get to do is tee your ball up and shoot your score — you’ve got nothing to do with me,” Van Pelt said in a recent interview with David Feherty. “Yet, he totally messed with [his opponent’s] airspace, and through his force of will beat people down.”
Woods, of course, came back from being down two strokes after 54 holes to win his fifth Masters last April. His victory was largely aided by the Sunday collapses of those near him on the leaderboard, including Francesco Molinari, Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau. The trio all hit their tee shots into the water at Amen Corner, giving Woods a window of opportunity he leapt through.
“Augusta felt more like one of those where he ground them down,” Van Pelt said. “Like, what are the odds that Molinari and Finau and Koepka are all going to get wet on twelve? What are the odds?”
Woods shot just two under on the day, but it was enough to claim a one-stroke victory. In Van Pelt’s eyes, it wasn’t shotmaking or Sunday magic, but mental strength that carried Tiger to his 15th major win.
“Through sheer force of will, and I think this one more than any other, because I know still to this day, he doesn’t know how he did it, and that’s the amazing thing,” Van Pelt said.
You can watch the clip of Feherty and Van Pelt breaking down Tiger’s win below and tonight on Golf Central, and you can watch the entire interview at 9 p.m. ET on Feherty on Monday.
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