Tiger’s absence leaves golf in great shape. For all the charm of Bubba Watson’s loose-limbed homespun swing the reaction from middle America was hardly “Hubba Bubba”. Television ratings from this years’ US Masters, the first that Tiger Woods has missed in 20 years, were down by almost a third but history shows the game is far bigger than one man.
The case was neatly stated by a recent article in the popular online magazine The Atlantic under the headline “Golf’s future without Tiger Woods: bleak”. The author, Jake Simpson, suggested that “there’s no debating who was the most influential golfer of all time.” He then went on claim that the growth of prize money at the Masters, up from $2.5 million in 1996 to $9 million this year, stems entirely from Woods’ “cult of personality.”
Really? Perhaps Simpson and the other Woods obsessives should look at tennis’s US Open, the nearest equivalent to the US Masters in a rival sport. The figures here turn out to be almost identical with prize money rising fourfold since the early Nineties. The value of TV rights just happen to explode across the board in the past 20 years coinciding with Woods’s career.
I do not deny that Woods has been a focal point. Where he scores is in his ability to attract floating voters, those sports fans who do not naturally gravitate towards the driving range on Sunday morning. But then something similar could be said of Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, or Lebron James.
Every sport, by definition, must have its’ top dog. Corporate America has been in love with golf for a long time. In the past there was Hogan, Nicklaus, Watson and The King Arnold Palmer- the man who really got it all started in the modern era.
There was definitely a lack of star power when Tiger versus Phil Mickelson weren’t in the last two rounds of the Masters. But, in my humble opinion the game is much bigger than one man.
As for Woods, there is no need to panic. Even after missing the Masters he remains well ahead of Adam Scott at the top of the world rankings. When his decline inevitably accelerates the next person is just around the corner…Jordan Spieth perhaps?
Till next tee time