Tiger Woods. The name alone used to strike fear into the hearts of PGA golfers. Few men have ever dominated any sport the way Tiger once did. Woods was the Michael Jordan, the Wayne Gretzky, the Joe Montana, the Muhammad Ali of golf; simply the best. Woods’ accolades consist of 11 PGA Tour Player of the Year awards, 9 Vardon Trophies (lowest average scorer), 2 FedEx Cup Championships and of course, his 14 Major wins.
From 2000-2008 there was nothing more entertaining to a fan of golf, or sports, then watching Tiger Woods dawning his red Nike shirt on a Sunday during a Major. Time after time Tiger would do the seemingly impossible and swipe wins out of nowhere. Simply seeing the name “Tiger Woods” atop the scoreboard going into Sunday was enough to make opponents choke. When Tiger was in a zone on Sunday, it was simply must see TV, There were no moments to big nor stakes to high for Tiger. He overcame any obstacle and climbed any mountain in his way, perhaps best captured by his epic shot at the 2005 Masters, which Tiger ultimately won in a playoff. His game was simply put, a work of art. But despite winning PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2013, Tiger has not managed to win a major since 2008 (U.S. Open). Woods lack of relevance the last few years have left fans of the game simply wanting more.
Unfortunately, with every rise there is a fall and Tiger’s fall has been a great one. The last seven years, he’s battled through personal problems, injuries, and his own mindset. He’s accounted for a whopping 0 Major wins in that time span. It once seemed as if he was destined to beat Jack Nichlaus’ record 18 Major Championship victories, but at age 39 and on a seven year dry spell, it seems far from certain. Us fans desperately want Tiger to be there this Sunday during the 2015 Masters, not just playing, but in contention. And golf needs it; the ratings are never quite as high for the sport as they are when Tiger is in the mix on Sunday. His opponents even know the benefits of having him in the hunt. Throughout this week, Tiger’s opponents have come out of the woodwork to wish the best for him. They too know that with the rise of Tiger comes the rise of ratings, meaning more money for everyone. Nobody in the sport quite has the clout that Tiger has.
We hear every year about who the next “Tiger” will be. The closest anyone has come to matching his level of play and fame has been Rory McIlroy. At the age of 25, the kid from Northern Ireland has already won 4 Majors, and currently holds both the PGA Championship trophy and The Open Championship trophy (British Open). One can only guess what is next to come from Rory, but we do know one thing; despite Nike’s current attempt to pass the torch from Tiger to Rory, he is not Tiger. Rory has certainly built a substantial following the last three or four years, but the buzz is not quite there yet on Sundays when Rory is in contention like it is with Tiger.
Everyone desperately wants to believe that Tiger is as healthy as he says he is, for the good of the sport. To be honest, if Tiger isn’t in contention on Sunday then I probably will not even tune in. The Masters may be “a tradition unlike any other” but if both Tiger and Rory are not in contention, its ratings won’t live up to its self-pronounced hype. So as the 2015 Master’s gets underway today, we should all be chanting one thing “Let’s go Tiger.”
By Peter Gumas