Golf fans around the world have been waiting, less than patiently, for Tiger Woods to rediscover the ability that made him in the eyes of many the greatest golfer of all time. But the days of Tiger handling the competition almost without breaking a sweat are clearly over. And with the latest dud he put up at the US Open, many people are beginning to wonder if Tiger has hit his ceiling, and will never again reach the heights of the game. Has he now become what seemed ridiculous just a few years ago? Is he merely average?
Tiger Woods changed the game of golf forever. Most casual fans of golf knew his name, and probably no one else’s. Tiger turned more people on to the sport than ever before, and even now in his undeniable twilight, people around the world still know who he is. And no other golfers have stepped into the spotlight to capture fans’ imaginations at anything like the same scope.
Of course, he can’t be fully discounted yet. He did win two tournaments this year, and looked strong in the early rounds of the U.S. Open. But the personal scandals he faced, and handled poorly, in the last couple of years now mean he has to do something truly spectacular on the links for fans to keep their conversations firmly on the sport. Tiger used to be this unstoppable force; the most dominant golfer of his generation. But with his fall from grace, he also lost that competitive edge. Other golfers don’t fear going toe to toe with him, so whatever edge he used to have is gone. So why is the general public still so infatuated?
Tiger Woods is ranked number four in the world, despite his most recent failings. But can anyone name the last golfer to be ranked number four? In case you’re wondering, his name is Graeme McDowell, and he actually won the U.S. Open in 2010. He even beat Tiger Woods directly towards the end of the ’10 season, and came within a hair of winning the U.S. Open this year. But does anyone other than die-hard golf fans know his name? The truth is, whether Tiger Woods is winning it all or dropping from contention in the first round, his is still the name on everyone’s lips.
There are other golfers working to make names for themselves. Dustin Johnson won the tournament just before the U.S. Open, and almost won the British Open and PGA Championship. With all of that, he’s still only ranked 14th in the world, and chances are you’ve never heard his name. Why is this the case?
The truth is, the PGA Tour is creating this environment, and mistakenly beating the same drum over and over again. Outside of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods, almost no time is spent helping these other, super talented golfers build a following. Forty percent of the top-ranked golfers in the world are American, and yet here we are, repeating the same names over and over again. So what’s the harm in giving some of those others the same attention Tiger gets, especially while he continues to turn in mediocre performances. If another golfer beat the all time score at the Errol Estate Golf and Country Club, would it get the same level of press as Tiger Woods would get for coming in third? The sad truth is, probably not.