Tiger Woods has been at the epicenter of the golf universe for over two decades. For much of his career, Tiger didn’t just move the needle, he was the needle. However, his game has been in a steady decline over the past several years.
Analysts and fans alike feared the worst. They feared that with Tiger’s demise, golf’s popularity would diminish right along with it. But something amazing happened. The junior golfers who idolized Tiger grew up right before our eyes and proved that not only were they good enough to win on golf’s biggest stages immediately, but they were instant superstars themselves. Tiger’s impact on golf was felt at every level, and it allowed golf’s popularity to continue its growth through the younger generation he inspired.
Long story short, Tiger IS golf, whether he is playing at the highest level or not.
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Tiger Woods And The Comeback Tour (Sort-Of)
With Tiger’s comeback tour (sort-of) underway and off to a very rocky start after a 15-month layoff, it begs the question, is golf better off without him in 2017 and moving forward?
Years removed from his last major victory, Tiger’s comeback at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines had the golf world understandably buzzing. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, he limped to a missed cut, only to fly halfway around the world (commercially, no less) and withdraw in Dubai after a birdie-free first round 77 due to back spasms. Now there is apparently no timetable for his return. Uh-oh, we’ve seen this movie before. While we obviously don’t know how it ends, we’ve seen it replayed time and time again over the past several years.
Back problems. Time off. New swing. Overhyped return. Repeat.
Now, understand here that I am as big of a Tiger fan as there is. I
want NEED Tiger to return to greatness. Never have I had as much fun watching golf as I have when Tiger was obliterating fields and setting records. I buy into the hype each and every time he tees it up, whether he has had 4 days or 15 months off. This time, however, it feels different. Though he is still planning on playing next week in Los Angeles, I must say, I am losing faith, and quickly.
This time, he (allegedly) did not try to rush back to competitive golf. He took the time he needed to truly heal. He learned a new swing that supposedly protects his back. And yet, here we are again. While I will desperately root for him to come back and win more tournaments and more majors, I just want to see him healthy again, and finishing four rounds at a time. Whether even that is setting expectations too high we just don’t know yet.
The “Tiger Effect”
What we do know is that the “Tiger Effect” has left the game in a fantastic place regardless. The likes of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and so many more have already proven that they are capable of moving the needle themselves. That’s all thanks to Tiger.
Whenever he does tee it up, there may be a little more media hype, and a few more fans outside the ropes, but golf doesn’t need him anymore. Is golf thankful for all he has done? Absolutely. Will it feel his impact for years to come? No question. But is golf dead without him? It most certainly isn’t.
I don’t think he will walk around the course and go through the motions simply for the sake of playing. He plays to win every time he tees it up. If he can’t do that anymore, then he will walk away. And he should. Golf will be fine without him. And while I’m rooting for him to come out and win whenever his back settles down and he is ready to tee it up again, it just may not be his turn anymore.