April 10, 2011
Yes, this is another Tiger Woods story. Yes, you may be outraged or sick of Tiger or ready to declare HE'S BACK AND HE'S GONNA CARVE THROUGH YOU HATERS LIKE A NINJA, whatever. But you're going to read it, and you're going to have a reaction.
Why? Because like it or not, Tiger Woods is the biggest story in golf. Tiger Woods is always the biggest story in golf.
Put aside the hard numbers, the simple facts like the increase in purses since Tiger's arrival and the 50 percent decreases in ratings when he doesn't play. Just admit it. For a minute on Sunday, perhaps when he went birdie-birdie-eagle on 6, 7 and 8, you thought to yourself that Tiger Woods could win this thing. Perhaps you thought Tiger Woods would win this thing. Whether that thought filled you with joy or anticipation or nausea or rage is irrelevant; what matters is that you felt something that you don't feel when any other golfer makes that kind of run.
Yes, Charl Schwartzel won, and yes, Adam Scott and Jason Day were right there behind him, and yes, everyone who knows golf should be happy for them all. That Schwartzel won a green jacket is a story, but it's not the story. The story is the same as it's been since 1997: the most dominant sporting figure in a generation first mashing the game of golf into paste, and now trying to figure how to put the pieces of his life and career back together while the world watches.
Love Woods or hate him, that's a far more compelling story over the long haul than a golfer rising up out of nowhere, winning a major, and then returning to the masses of the field. Don't believe me? Name the current four major holders and the guys they beat to win their trophy. Go.
People love to complain that there isn't enough focus on other golfers when Tiger isn't in the field, as if those poor little other golfers are delicate flowers withering in the shade. That's absurd. For instance, in just the last two days, we wrote about Luke Donald here, Charl Schwartzel here and here, Phil Mickelson here and here, Rory McIlroy here and here, Y.E. Yang here, Adam Scott here and here ... you get the idea. And the common thread between all those? None of them attract the heat of a Woods article, and almost all of them eventually devolve into a discussion of why Tiger rules/sucks.
Now, I know blog commenters aren't exactly representative of a national mindset -- don't be offended, dear commenter, I'm not talking about you; I'm talking about the other people who rant here -- but numbers do mean something. Only four players are guaranteed to get comments in the golf world: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, John Daly and Michelle Wie. Everyone else? Eh, you can take 'em or leave 'em.
Why? Because each of those four is a story unto him- or herself, a story where you can take sides, a story where you have a rooting interest. Because of who they are and what they have (or haven't) done, they resonate better with the public. And so, yes, it is interesting to the mass of people that Tiger came in 16th in a given tournament, and that does warrant placing his name in the story along with the winner.
Which brings us to this year's Masters. This was catnip for both Woods worshipers and detractors; both sides could take something from this. Woods fans got the knowledge that their man still has game, that he might still have a major win or five left in him. Woods haters got the satisfaction of seeing him implode on the back nine, seeing that green jacket fade from his view putt after short missed putt.
Look, Woods is going to be with us for years to come. Maybe he'll win another major, maybe he'll beat Jack Nicklaus' major record, maybe he'll never win again. We don't know. We can't know. But no matter what, we'll be watching. We may have different reasons, but we're all in this together.