COMMENTARY | Golf is the type of sport that needs all the help it can get when it comes to market share and coverage in the United States.
It's also precisely why the PGA TOUR needs Tiger Woods. Woods was listed No. 1 among athletes on Forbes Celebrity 100 list for 2012, despite his epic fall from grace and struggles on and off the course since November 2009. He has just one PGA TOUR victory in that time, coming at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2012. Since then, he has struggled to regain his form that made him one of golf's greatest legends.
What does the Forbes list actually measure? Annual compensation, television and radio coverage, print coverage, and social media mentions are all categories that are considered when determining who makes the list. Woods has been ranked first among athletes for 11 consecutive years.
Woods moves the needle when it comes to golf, but he transcends his sport altogether. This is precisely why a second-tier sport in terms of popularity such as golf needs a player that can generate excitement, controversy, anger, or criticism among fans and casual onlookers. No matter how good other American hopefuls like Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, or Matt Kuchar become, they still cannot impact the sports world like Woods can.
Golf will experience a changing of the guard at some point, but at age 36, Woods has more work to do. Since he hasn't shown any consistent signs of a resurgence on the course, it's difficult to imagine that he is now officially back to what he once was. But what is feasible is that he has a few more wins, some possibly majors, left in him. They may not be dominant and vintage victories fans are used to, but they could include enough highlights to neatly bookend his incredible career.
When Tiger wins, so does golf. The sport can always use the extra sponsorship opportunities, television revenue, and fan interest that come with a Tiger Woods tournament appearance.
The bar has been set so high when it comes to Woods, that fans now have come to anticipate greatness. When they don't get it, bitterness and malice start to evolve. Sometimes, the response even manifests itself as hatred. Granted, he made awful decisions morally that helped him arrive at a career impasse, but he's not the first prominent athlete to do so. He has paid the price, and now his focus is to salvage what's left of a legacy.
While being ranked the most powerful athlete is awfully nice, there is no doubt that Woods would rather be ranked No. 1 according to the Official World Golf Ranking.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and PGA professional, following the PGA TOUR. He has written for southern California's Press-Enterprise and Examiner.com. Follow Michael on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tiger Woods
- PGA TOUR