Whoever said golf is a boring game clearly didn’t watch the final round of the 2018 PGA Championship. While travelling with a connecting flight with spotty wifi, I asked the guy next to me if he wanted to watch golf since his connection to the movie he was watching was perfect. He looked at my phone trying to connect to a clear image and asked how Tiger was doing. I landed and rushed to my hotel to watch the final holes on the back nine where the leader board was dominated by some of the best golfers in the world.
On Sunday, however, we witnessed just how much the game of golf is still rooting for Tiger. The roar of the crowd is a smack in the face to all those sponsors who gave up on him, but, really, fans have never stopped rooting for Tiger.
A decade has passed but nothing has changed
Tiger has won 14 Majors and 106 professional wins since turning pro in 1996. Tiger is in second place for the all-time majors win list (Jack Nicklaus leads with 18 major wins). The last time Tiger won a major was the U.S. Open in 2008. A decade has passed since the world of golf has really heard the gallery roar for the fist-pumping golfer who dominated the world rankings for 281 weeks in a row (683 total weeks) as the number one golfer in the world.
I don’t know if he found hookers again, but honestly, his personal life doesn’t really concern me. As long as Tiger is playing, I’m watching. And so is the rest of the world of golf. Ratings soar when Tiger is on the course. The ratings for the third round of Saturday’s PGA Championship was up 54% from last year (no Tiger in 2016 & 2017) and rated the highest since 2009!
Make no mistake, I am a huge Dustin Johnson fan. I will always root for DJ first. The current rankings are flooded with so much young talent with an average age of 29.6 years old. DJ, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Rory Mcllroy, Francesco Molinari, John Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Ricky Fowler, and Jason Day are all players who we expect to watch for decades to come. But none of them have that Tiger Woods factor.
Maybe Tiger has had such a huge following because for so long it was Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson and, as we all know, there is nothing exciting about Mickelson. NOTHING! (Seriously, dad, you are the only one on team Mickelson. A one in four chance of getting stuck with Phil is a fear that makes my blood pressure rise.)
A new ego
Perhaps Tiger has finally settled into his new ego. After all, he lost so much from his father, his family, homes, millions of dollars in endorsements deals, and disappeared from the world rankings. He was living a life where he was untouchable and on top of the world. Knowing he was his biggest competition was the pressure that kept him number one in the world for so long. When it all came crashing down, it was a long, steep fall, his image exposed and shattered into a slow-motion train wreck in front of the entire world.
Sports media believed Tiger was done and that he would never be the same golfer. It’s true that Tiger is gone. But this 2018 Tiger is showing flashes of the Tiger from yesteryear, a man who is no longer on the cover of People Magazine for being caught in another scandal. This should be the PGA’s DREAM! They get THE player that the fans will always want to watch with the image they want to have in the PGA.
“The Tiger Effect”
Brooks Koepka won his 3rd Major on Sunday (2nd Major this year) at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri to become the 100th PGA Champion. Tiger finished second with two strokes behind Koepka, shooting a 64 in his final round, his lowest Sunday round of his career. The world of golf should be talking about Koepka, who is now the fifth player in history to win the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship in the same year. (Tiger, Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen are the other four.) But Brooks doesn’t have the Tiger effect.
Tiger now has to be a lock for the Ryder Cup at the end of September. After Tiger finished on Sunday, he was glowing! Tiger was genuinely happy to finish a major in 2nd place and happy to be back in the hunt on a Sunday. When asked about the Ryder Cup he said he will be there as a player or as fan, either way he will be there. Tiger needs the game of golf as much as the game of golf needs Tiger Woods. Tiger, you’ve earned your stripes and we will continue to roar!
Image credit: Getty Images