No Tiger? Sorry, No Interest
Tiger Woods is just another guy out there now, and that’s too bad for him.
But it is even worse for golf.
Without Tiger, the sport is back to wandering around all those fairways minus an identity. One week, it’s some guy you’ve barely heard of winning a tournament, the next week it’s Louis What-huizen, or whatever his name is, coming out of nowhere to capture the British Open.
Look, the young kid from South Africa had a spectacular four days and he comes off as a very nice guy, but if he wins another major anytime soon, it will be almost as big a shock as his first one.
Phil Mickelson looked like he was ready to take over for Woods earlier in the year, sweeping to an emotional victory in the Masters with his wife, recovering from cancer, there to watch. That was a terrific story.
But Mickelson’s story lines, like his golf game, don’t seem to have legs. There is something missing with Phil, something that reeks of lack of hunger or softness. I don’t know what it is, but this isn’t a guy whose competitive fire is always burning.
You know, the way Tiger’s used to be. When Woods was winning almost every tournament he was entering there for a while, you could never turn away. He was Michael Jordan in his prime, as good as anyone you’d ever seen ply his craft.
All by himself, he made golf popular, the way Arnold Palmer first did back in the day. Tiger had charisma, he had breathtaking skill, he had all of us sitting in front of our televisions entranced.
But now he has become someone else. This is not to say he hasn’t created his own problems. Obviously, he has. His off-the-course proclivities and the scandalous headlines that followed him for months have left what might be irreparable damage.
He just doesn’t look like the same player anymore. The shots aren’t there, the putting isn’t there and, maybe most important, the confidence isn’t there.
This is a huge problem for golf. First, the sport has to accept the truth. Obviously, it hasn’t yet, because Woods was installed as the prohibitive favorite at St. Andrews. My reaction, like many I suspect, was oh, really, based on what?
It is almost painful to watch Tiger now on the final day of whatever tournament it is, struggling to get out of the rough, scrambling to overcome yet another errant tee shot, plodding away in the early hours of a telecast while waiting for the real leaders to take over.
The TV networks won’t give up on him yet, either. They insist on showing almost every one of his shots, no matter how pedestrian many of them have become.
You know why? Because they know that without him, they’re in big trouble, too. Without Tiger in contention, their Sunday ratings will go right down the nearest porta-potty.
Now in his mid-30s, Tiger is not too old to recapture at least some of the old glory. Anyone who has demonstrated that kind of steely will and extraordinary competitiveness in the past has a chance
But based on what we’ve seen the past few months, it won’t be easy.
The sport of golf had better start hoping miracles are possible, because without Tiger at the top of his game, all those weekend viewers out there will begin exploring their options.
And you never know. If things get drastic enough, they might even consider soccer.
— Steve Bisheff