In a year in which he’s gone winless, with a high finish of a tie for twenty fifth, while other golfers have won as many as three pga tour events, Tiger Woods managed to maintain the number one ranking in the world, until yesterday…
Last year Tiger won five events, enough to keep him on top of the world, until yesterday, when Adam Scott officially moved into the number one ranking. This season injuries have plagued Tiger to the point where he missed one cut, withdrew from two tournaments and finally called a halt to his season to have surgery on his ailing lower back.
The void has been enormous… much of the reason for the void is the emphasis the tour has always put on Tiger, at the expense of other young stars, leaving the perception that events without Tiger are minor in stature. The tour was never shy about using Tiger’s image to promote events it knew he would not take part in and telecasts of events from which he was absence were still heavy with tiger commentaries and comparisons. When Tiger was in the field directors saw no need to focus their cameras anywhere else and announcers felt no compulsion to discuss other golfers at length… a tournament without Tiger was like a tournament with no direction. The absence of Tiger Woods has never been more noticeable than it is now.
In two thousand eight tiger won the u-s open but was forced to take the rest of the season off with a broken leg… no one knew at the time that from then to now Tiger would fail to win another major…even through much of the drought, following his return, the tiger factor was evident as players of his own era frequently buckled when Tiger’s name appeared on the leader board, particularly in the majors… much of the ascension of the next generation on the PGA Tour can be attributed to Tiger’s presence. The younger golfers, particularly following his post US Open absence and the extension of his drought in the majors, didn’t develop the same Tiger phobia from which players of his own generation suffered, and their willingness to wilter in the face of Tiger opened the door for a generation willing to take their place.
Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson have each won two majors since tiger last scored a big one, with Phil Mickelson the only other multiple major winner over that stretch as the kiddie corps steps up one at a time to take their crack. Martin Kaymer had icewater in his veins in winning the Players Championship and Patrick Reed has been brimming with confidence since his arrival on tour, claiming a fast three wins… but the Tiger void is still there and it’s still considerable. It’s not about filling the TV time with visual images and constant adoration, it’s just that he’s not there. Tiger is still the yard stick… we don’t know how good these guys are until we know if they’re one of the guys who can stay on course for that Sunday trek down eighteen with Tiger in the field or if they’ll join the ranks who wilt at the very mention of his name, even if he’s just a shell of the golfer he once was.
The tour still needs the Tiger factor and we found out yesterday how much he is missed when he promoted his tournament at congressional next month and announced he has no announcement… there’s no telling how long he’ll be gone, he has yet to start hitting balls. The US Open is just three weeks away, the Open Championship a month after that. Tiger’s empty string of majors grows longer– the tour knew they’d miss him, now they know how much.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray…