Where Have You Gone Tiger Woods?

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Let’s be realistic. The game of golf and the PGA Tour need Tiger Woods. Even with the travails of his private life reported on and viewed on every television and computer screen, we still need him.

Call it charisma, cache or whatever but the excitement Woods generates moves the needle unlike anyone in our sport since the heady days of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Sure today’s young guns (described by somebody as a “golf’s boy band”) draw attention but Woods was and is a winner and a unparalleled cultural phenomenon. Just ask Phil Mickelson who has a record matched by few with the ninth most wins all-time but he’s 9 majors and 37 wins behind Tiger. And in case you don’t think this separates Tiger and Lefty from the rest of the pack, the next highest winning total by players under the age of 50 is Ernie Els with 19.

The expectations of the so-called “Tiger Bubble,” where millions of new participants would take of the game because Woods made golf “cool,” didn’t result in a large number of committed players. For all the optimism of how a non-Caucasian star would “change the face of golf,” it didn’t happen.

Golf today reflects our society, its strengths and weakness and on the whole is a positive for the roughly 25 million who play, at least occasionally. Of that number an estimated 20 million tee it up several times per year making golf a significant part of their lives.

Having said that, we know the number of rounds of golf played is the primary determinant for course revenues, equipment sales, travel and all the other parts of the industry.

A healthy, competing Woods draws attention like no other athlete and that encourages players to play more and possibly even attracts new participants. There probably is no other single event that would trigger as much interest in the game as his return and golf industry companies would have to capitalize on it.

It could be a big deal. Say if somehow a Tiger return leveraged by smart course management (not simply price cuts but creating real value for customers) could translate into rounds played going up a modest ten percent. That’s about 40 million rounds and a simple multiplication assuming a $40 average greens fee and the result is $1.6 billion which doesn’t include the sales of equipment and apparel, travel, food and beverage…Well, you get the idea.

The industry needs a catalyst such as a healthy Tiger Woods.

From a fan’s perspective how great would it be to have Tiger tee it up this week at Oakmont against Day and Spieth and McIlroy and Scott and the other younger players. Or as long as we are dreaming.

Can you image the TV ratings if Lefty and Tiger were tied going in to the final round, battling it out on Father’s Day? The companies funding the telecast with their advertising would have a bonanza of viewership for their products and services.

Yes, golf needs Tiger and let’s hope all the speculation of “if he will return” becomes meaningless when he does.

Who Says TV Golf Needs Tiger?

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Part of the lament about golf on television is, without Tiger Woods on the tube viewership is a way down and advertisers aren’t getting the exposure they are paying for.

Well, it’s anecdotal of course, but according to a statement from the Golf Channel “THE PLAYERS Sunday overnight rating on NBC up 60 percent over 2014” and the cause obviously was the edge-of-the-chair excitement of the three man playoff. Ricky Fowler won the “almost a major” PLAYERS by eliminating Sergio Garcia after the three hole playoff and then Kevin Kisner in sudden death on the island green 17th at TPC Sawgrass.

It was the third most watched Sunday of the past year topped only by last month’s blowout at the Masters by Jordan Spieth and the battle between Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship in August with world number one McIlroy winning.

PrintComparing previous years’ of THE PLAYERS this past Sunday also came in third after Tiger Woods’ win in 2013 and Henrik Stenson’s win in 2009.

More data will be coming to expand on the how much good golf from appealing players is just what viewers crave.

Perhaps as heartening as any fact concerning how many of us were watching the thrilling finish is victory is a solid validation of Fowler. He is not the most overrated player on Tour as supposedly was the case after an anonymous poll of fellow pros conducted by Sports Illustrated.

Can anyone say nattering nabobs of negativity?

Oh, and Tiger? He made the cut on the number and ended up T69 so the man that “moves the needle” like no other in our game was finished before the cameras went

 

Tiger Redux

Tiger_Nike_2014_3_400x300To a greater or lesser degree, we all kid ourselves. We often can’t see the reality of a situation. Instead we believe a mixture of what is and what we would like it be as the truth. We see it all the while in golf—on and off the course. Who of us hasn’t tried an impossible shot from an impossible lie in an impossible position?

Take a situation burned into my memory, the qualifying tournament for a spot in the field at the US Senior Open…after a pulled tee shot into the scrub under a stand of Spanish moss-draped oaks the ball came to nestled amongst fallen oak leaves leaving almost no shot. Being unable to see that simple piece of reality when the smart shot was a punch back to the fairway, I casually took a 2-iron out and attempted a low 200-yard hook around and under the closest oak. The ball was hit solidly and just as solidly hit the oak trunk before zinging its way out of bounds.

Ok I thought what rotten luck, as I took a drop as proscribed by the Rules of Golf, retained the 2-iron and again hit the ball a mile over the boundary fence thanks to contact with the same tree trunk not a foot from the previous impact.

Needless to say my attempt at qualifying went over the fence with the second ball…Tin Cup has nothing on me.

So how does this apply to the most recent situation Tiger Woods has to deal with…deactivating glutes?

As soon as he cited that as the reason for withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open last week it had all the characteristics of an excuse…not a reason, not reality. And unfortunately it exhibited that same personality trait he has so often shown us in the past. He was kidding himself about what had really gone on.

Or put another way if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are it’s a duck.

There’s no doubt in my mind his back “tightened up” after the weather delay and being a fellow sufferer I sympathize but what tipped me over into the excuse-not-reason camp was the already sorry state of Woods’ game plus the fact as far as I know not a single other player opted out of the tournament after going through similar delays.

Woods doesn’t need another swing coach he needs to find within himself the solution to his sometimes seemingly apathetic and certainly often pathetic play not looking outside blaming others nor circumstances nor his gluteus maximus.

The game needs Tiger Woods. Let’s hope he can get his game back and return to the Tour but not as he seems have been doing all his life—with an ignorance of reality accompanied with an arrogance that now days is certainly unfounded.

Images courtesy Nike Golf