The Breakdown: Tiger Woods " golf’s savior
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Summit County, Co Colorado
Today at the WGC Accenture Matchplay Championship in Tucson, Ariz., the PGA Tour finally begins competition in 2009.
Sure, they’ve been having weekly tournaments since the first week of January, but everything before today doesn’t really count.
Why? Because ” for the first time in about nine months ” Tiger Woods will tee it up.
Since Woods’ heroic 90-hole U.S. Open win ” while playing, literally, on one leg ” golf has been rendered pretty much meaningless in popular sports.
I guess you could argue that while the greatest golfer to ever live was on injured reserve that it allowed for some younger players (i.e. Anthony Kim or Camillo Villegas) to step up or some elite players to fulfill some prior and never-met expectations (i.e. Padraig Harrington).
But, let’s be honest, who really cared about any of it? All the other players’ accomplishments over the last nine months have been so underwhelming that Woods still has a firm grip on his world No. 1 ranking which, by the way, only keeps track of points from the past year. That means that, even with Woods missing nine out of 12 months that count toward the ranking, no one could do anything to even come close to supplanting him at the top.
It’s not like it’s really anyone’s fault, as Woods is probably the most dominant athlete to ever live, but the effect on the sport is very apparent.
Sponsors are dropping like flies. TV ratings are getting creamed. Prize money, though still bloated, hasn’t risen.
Basically, the PGA Tour is floundering like a beached whale in a tough economic storm.
Fortunately, golf, unlike all other struggling industries, already has it’s solution, it has it’s savior. And, that’s Woods.
He’s the one that brought golf to the masses in a way that no other athlete has ever done for his or her sport. He accomplished the miraculous task of making the game cool. He’s the reason for the large purses at tournaments, for the TV coverage, for the endorsement deals. He’s the reason that golf is what it is today.
That being said, Woods is also the best example of how individual athletes can transcend a sport and become bigger than the games they’re paid to play.
To a certain point, they become the only thing that matters in the sport.
(Example: Did anyone care about Harrington’s back-to-back major wins in 2008? Nope. In fact people argue that it should have an asterisk because he didn’t have to beat Woods.)
This can actually be a good thing for a sport, though, as long as that particular athlete continues to compete at their extremely high level. Think of the NBA with Michael Jordan, or the NHL with Wayne Gretzky. Once those athletes retire, though, it’s a different story.
Sport live and die through their top athletes. Plain and simple.
Now that Woods is back on the course, golf can go back to living, and mattering, again.
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