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Despite A Major-Less Year, Woods Is Top Golfer


And it's time now for sports.


MARTIN: In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, Tiger Woods dominated just about any golf course he walked onto. And he was setting and breaking records all the time.

Well, it's 2013 now and Tiger Woods hasn't won any majors this year. He is not the same Tiger Woods he once was.

But NPR's Mike Pesca has been reporting on the upcoming vote for Golfer of the Year, a distinction voted on by professional golfers. Tiger is apparently expected to win. Mike Pesca says that is correct. That would, indeed, be a righteous, accurate vote.

Mike joins us from WBEZ in Chicago. Good morning.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Yes, righteous. I channel my inner surfer. Exactly.


MARTIN: So righteous. OK. Tiger Woods, you've been reporting on him, no surprise here, you have reached some perhaps counterintuitive conclusions.

PESCA: Well, actually, it's pretty and empirically clear, the guy has won five tournaments this year. The next closest golfer has won two. And there's a tournament - there are four more left. There's one underway as we speak, the Barclays. If Matt Kuchar wins that, he'll pull within a couple tournaments of Tiger. But still, even the pros on the tour, everyone says Tiger's had the best year; it's just not in the majors. And the argument against that is, well, if it's not in the majors, it doesn't really count. And I don't think that's true, and the other pros don't think that's true. Tiger himself said I would trade all five of my wins for a win in one of the majors, thus pulling me closer to Jack Nicklaus and the record. But still, his record has been impressive this year. And the point is his failure to win the majors, I do not think comes down to most of the things that it's attributed to, which is mental. I will acknowledge there is a mental part of the game which is that he's really not the best golfer. I do think he's the best golfer. I think luck plays a gigantic role, actually.

MARTIN: I mean, I have to take issue. There's a reason why they are called the majors, because it's the big thing. Like if you aren't winning those then, sure, maybe you're not having a lucky day but you're also not golfing very well.

PESCA: I totally got to get you a slot on an ESPN argument show. No, no, no. You raise good points and phrase them politely, unlike an argument show. However, there's so much randomness in golf that we don't take into effect. We see who won and we say thinks like he wanted it more, he had the better. We don't say he had the better day. We say, you know, he is the better golfer right now. Let me just point out that of the last 20 majors, going back to 2009, only two of them have been won by the same guy: Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. So, there's a great variety in who wins. Let me also point out here that they have this machine called Iron Byron, and it's a robot. And it swings the club the same every time. And even if you said to swing exactly the same time, the ball, say, on a six-iron, there would be a radius of where the ball lands. It's like an eight-foot-wide to 17-foot-wide radius. When you take that into account, it just means that perfectly swinging will give you different results. The wind shifts as you hit the ball. There are all these different factors. When you get down to it, a golf tournament is, you know, 280 strokes. If you lose by three strokes, you're losing by, you know, 1 percent. And if you're three strokes off the lead, as, you know, Tiger has been in some of these majors that he lost, it's seen as, oh, he doesn't have it. I do believe that it really comes down to vaguery(ph) and change. The thing is, Tiger is not as good as he was 10 years ago. So, there's a chance he didn't have a chance to enter the picture, but now it does for Tiger Woods.

MARTIN: Now, luck affects him because he's a mere mortal.

PESCA: I think so. 'Cause he's mortal, right.

MARTIN: Got it, got it. All right. You got a curveball?

PESCA: I do. It is the idea whose time has come. It is the "NBA Lockout: The Musical," which I saw...


PESCA: Yes. Well, you know, think about it - "Cats," does that even make sense? Which I saw in Chicago last night. It is charming. It was written by a guy name Jason Gallagher, who is an NBA blogger. It is very accurate as far as the basketball it puts forward. LeBron James sings a song. David Stern sings a song. And here the owner of the teams talks about wanting to have a superstar.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) (Singing) What do they have that we don't that takes them far? They've got a superstar.

PESCA: And then the GM argues with him about advanced statistics versus wanting a superstar. I mean, in the Venn diagram. I'm in the sweet spot right in the middle of this. But I really, really liked it. It's playing in Chicago.

MARTIN: Anyone can makes a musical these days.

PESCA: No, this one's good.

MARTIN: So, we have a curveball to your curveball because turns out one Mike Pesca has maybe delved into the world of musical making. Let's take a listen to this.

PESCA: Oh no. (Singing) Oklahoma, Russell Westbrook comes sweeping down the lane. Because you know he can't defer to Durant. Derrick Fisher logs one assist a game. Western Conference teams should stick together. Western Conference teams should all...

MARTIN: That is beautiful. Mike Pesca giving us a sample of his own ideal basketball musical.

PESCA: I'm kickstarting that one. Fund me.

MARTIN: NPR's Mike Pesca. Thank you so much, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome. And how dare you.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) (Singing) A superstar, just like (unintelligible) and we'll have the respect of (unintelligible)...

MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.