The Breakdown: Luck of the Irish
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Summit County, Colorado
The way things have gone lately, it’s pretty amazing that people still give a flying, um, Titlest about golf or the PGA Tour.
Although, it’s not like fans have been showing up in droves for the early going this year. You know, when Ryan Palmer earned a thrilling win at the Sony Open, or Bill Haas got his first career title at the Bob Hope, or even when Derek Lamely won the coveted trophy at the Puerto Rico Open last weekend.
What’s that? You didn’t watch any of that?
Don’t worry, no one did.
Really, the golf season has started pretty Lamely this year. (Get it? That was a good one, huh?)
The reason is obvious: No Tiger means no one cares.
I mean, when the coverage of Tiger (finally) announcing his return to golf Tuesday generated far more attention and minutes on TV than all the other PGA events of 2010 combined, you know that the vast majority of sports fans only care about golf when the world’s best player is in the field. It’s just the way it is.
But beginning April 8, when Woods tees it up at Augusta to start his season, golf will be relevant again.
Even though it took until the morning before St. Patrick’s Day for Woods to finally announce his intentions, I’m sure PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s corned beef and cabbage taste a whole lot better today. After all, Tiger is definitely golf’s lucky charm.
Anyway, my point to all of this (and, yes, there’s a point) isn’t how important Tiger is to golf. No, I think that’s pretty obvious to everyone.
You see, everything that’s gone on with Tiger in the past 100-plus days has generated more attention than any of his wins ever have.
So, the question I want to bring up is this: Will Tiger’s extramarital escapades actually help golf’s popularity? Or, at least, will it wind up helping the PGA Tour make more money?
Simple answer: yes.
Sure, this sounds crazy, but there are two main reasons why everything that’s happened recently may actually bring more fans to the game.
For years, we’ve watched Tiger mow through the field in tournaments, making the task of winning a major championship seem about as daunting as the Lakers beating the Clippers.
Through it all, I think we’ve started to take Tiger for granted; There was nothing he could do to surprise us.
Ultimately, some people probably stopped tuning in on Sundays when he had the lead. After all, we already knew what was going to happen.
Now? Who knows how Tiger will play after this layoff. Obviously, he’s going to be in as good of shape physically as he has been in the past. But tournament golf is certainly more mental than physical.
For the first few tournaments, anything could happen. Tiger could come out and win the Masters by 15, or he could make a 15 on the first hole, have a catastrophic meltdown and wind up sitting on the green with no shoes and tears running down his cheeks a la Richie in “Royal Tenenbaums.”
That element of the unknown will definitely attract more viewers, at least initially.
Still, through everything, there are some people that are always going to dislike Tiger, and, maybe, rightly so. But just because people now “hate” him, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to watch him play. In fact, I’d argue it’ll be the opposite.
The only thing sports fans like more than their favorite team (or athlete) winning is watching their rival team (or player) lose. It’s a funny phenomenon, but it’s true. In sports, people love to hate. And now, who’s better to hate than Tiger?
All in all, the PGA Tour is going to get what it needs, and that’s people tuning in to watch its tournaments.
Tiger’s announcement Tuesday marks a new (and likely more profitable) era in golf.
Must be some of that St. Patty’s Day luck rubbing off.
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