THE D E B AT E ISSUE
If past is prologue, expect Woods to end his four-year majorless slump—and soon.
Will Tiger ever win another major? YES NO SLUMP BUSTER Plot Tiger’s all-around ranking during each major swing change and the pattern is clear: Woods is poised to hoist major championship hardware. ALL-AROUND RANKING Under Butch Harmon
Under Hank Haney Under Sean Foley
WIN: 2005 Masters 10th
WIN: 1999 PGA Championship 1st 0
NUMBER OF TOURNAMENTS SINCE SWING CHANGE *
ESPN The Magazine 06/25/2012
* Doesn’t count events in which all-around ranking was not calculated
WHO DESERVES MORE CREDIT: PHIL JACKSON OR KOBE BRYANT AND MICHAEL JORDAN? PHIL JACKSON
Phil Jackson, as both fans and detractors will admit, has had the good fortune of inheriting a few stars. But the degree to which they built his legacy or he aided theirs remains, well, debatable. To settle the argument of who deserves credit, we identified five pairs of “transitional” seasons for Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan—like the last season Kobe played for Jackson
A swing change, Tiger Woods likes to say, is “a process.” And he should know. In 1997, following his first Masters victory, Woods famously initiated a teardown with then-coach Butch Harmon. It’s easy to forget today that Woods, at the time, went 10 majors and 51 tournaments before netting another big one. In 2004, Tiger embarked on another swing switcheroo—this time with Hank Haney—and needed 24 starts to win another major. Why bring this up? If you hadn’t noticed, Woods has been enduring the longest major drought of his career (he hasn’t won one since the 2008 U.S. Open), part of which has coincided with Swing Change III: Sean Foley’s Revenge. It’s been 27 events since they started their “process,” and Tiger fans are hysterical. Will Tiger ever win a major again?!? In search of an answer, we compiled, for each “slump,” Tiger’s week-by-week all-around ranking (a measure of eight stats, from greens in regulation to putts, against all other players in a tournament’s field). And the pattern was clear: Regardless of wins and losses, Woods telegraphs when his game is good enough to win majors with a succession of single-digit all-around rankings. And once again— although scandal and injuries knocked him to previously unseen depths—Tiger, as the chart shows, is trending toward his old self. If history is destiny, that can mean only one thing: More majors for Tiger. And soon. —Scott T. Miller
(2010-11) and the first without him (2011-12). We then compared the performances of the stars and their teams with and without the Zen Master. On average, Jackson’s presence on the sideline coincided with a 5.3-point gain in the team’s net efficiency (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions), or the 2011-12 equivalent of turning the Jazz into the Heat. The two stars
performed better as individuals under Jackson too. MJ and Kobe raised their PERs by nearly two points relative to the season without Phil. Here’s the rub: Even if you credit the stars for 100% of their own improvement, that only explains about 30% of the overall team gains. Clearly, Phil was doing more than just recommending good books all those years. —Neil Paine
TOP: ANDY LYONS/GET T Y IMAGES; B OT TOM, F ROM LEF T : GLENN JAMES/NBAE/GET T Y IMAGES; MARK J. TERRILL/AP IMAGES; ALAN MOTHNER/AP IMAGES
In ESPN The Magazine's Debate Issue (June 2012), I looked at whether Tiger Woods will ever win another major.