November 23, 2010
About a month after Tiger Woods' encounter with a certain fire hydrant, we speculated on who would benefit and who would suffer as a result of Woods' self-imposed withdrawal from the game of golf. With the benefit of hindsight, let's see how the scene looks one year on.
Phil Mickelson. The opportunity was there for Mickelson to absolutely take over the game of golf, and while he did win at Augusta, it was an otherwise disappointing year for Lefty. The true on-course winners were Europeans like Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy, all of whom played well in Woods' absence. The biggest beneficiary? Graeme McDowell, who got into Woods' charity tournament after Woods withdrew. Buoyed by his strong performance in the Chevron, McDowell would go on to win the U.S. Open six months later.
Whichever tournament got Woods back first. We targeted Augusta, and we were right on the mark, for exactly the reasons we noted. He was sequestered from tabloid questions, though not from skywriters. Woods played well enough to place fourth, but found himself drawn into a cheap good-vs.-evil storyline with Mickelson.
The tabloids. After hammering Woods for three months solid, they left his carcass sucked dry and moved on to other targets. As expected. Still, remember who originally broke this story.
Perkins. Your dad may still be making Tiger/waitress jokes, but pretty much everyone else has moved on.
Tiger and his family. We'd hoped that Tiger would be able to use his time off to strengthen his marriage, but as it turned out, that was too much to ask of Elin Nordegren. Still, if Woods is to be believed, he spends quality time with his kids.
The PGA Tour. We were dead-on with this one; the PGA Tour is in as much trouble now as it's ever been. Not all of that is Woods' fault, of course, but the economic crisis, combined with Woods' effect on the ratings, means that the tour has lost much of the shine that it had this time last year. Any surprise that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is begging Tiger to play more?
Pro athletes keeping secrets. We suggested that the Tiger Woods affair (pun intended) would usher in a new era of scrutiny of pro athletes. Two words: Brett Favre.
Sponsors. Woods' sponsors bailed on him like he had a virus. As a result, he was in $700,000 worth of ads this year, down from $70 million. Ouch.
Tiger's charitable endeavors. We've heard little about how Woods' charities have done this year. Expect that to change when his charity tournament takes place in a couple weeks.
The national consciousness. Yes, we all had our inboxes stuffed with ridiculous Tiger Woods jokes and videos. (And yes, we were responsible for a lot of those forwarded links. Sorry about that.) Anyway, here we are, one year later, golf-poorer but celebrity-wiser. And we're left wondering if there's anybody pristine left in sports.