"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com
Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) --
Well, has Tiger turned into a tabby? Is it just a matter of needing more milk and having plenty of lives to go? Has he simply made everyone else play better? Is he bored? Has success spoiled his silken swing? Has the game become just that, a game? Is he having fun without winning? Is the growl now a simply purr?
Tiger Woods relaxes on the par 4 18th fairway during Tuesday's practice. Has he been spending too much time relaxing, and not enough time winning?
This week might hold the answer as the PGA Tour's final major championship of the season tees off with the PGA Championship on the Highlands Course at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Duluth, Georgia. Then, again, it might not.
When Jack Nicklaus stopped battling Arnold Palmer week in and week out, new golfing heroes were sought but none could rise to the level of hero worship that these two gathered about them. The PGA needed something, much like the NBA when it was floundering about. Along came Michael Jordan for hoop fans and then, the gods of golf be praised, Tiger Woods for golf or, as he is known to intimates, Eldrick T. He was an international one-man marketing mountain, a connonade of new confidence at the PGA's executive offices and a deluge of media coverage that was as uncontained as a Caribbean storm. He was the Super Bowl and March Madness in one bag of golf clubs.
Sponsors replaced St. Christopher on their dashboards with small statues of Tiger and advertisers hocked their newest equipment, art directors and office space to get a piece of the action. TV ratings went straight up on the graph, the prize money escalated to compete with the obscene amounts paid to basketball, football and baseball players and golf enjoyed an audience it had never seen before. No matter who was in the tournament, regardless of where Tiger was on the leader board, the coverage was about him. If he did not play, the media still hyped the fact that he was not there and the other combatants took a back seat to someone not even competing.
The phenomenon gathered steam and never stopped.
But, suddenly, Tiger stopped. Dead in his tracks. When he did not compete attendance and ratings dropped like one of his putts falling into the cup. And, even when he does step up to the first tee, when his name drops off the leader board so does the attention span of everyone else. This was never more evident than at the British Open when ratings plummeted as Tiger faded. David Duval, the number three player in the world, played incredible golf and eventually won but most of the audience had left to go to the movies.
When you stand and watch a Tiger pacing back and forth, either in the cage at the zoo or on safari in Africa, do you want to settle for a substitute pet cat before you hear a growl, see the leap onto the branch of the tree or take a picture? I think not.
Look at it in perspective. Woods hits a golf ball more than three football fields in length and, yet, his driving accuracy has him ranked 109th on the PGA Tour. Who cares? He putts to win and that clenched fist soars high into the air accompanied by a smile that Colgate should copyright and put into the time capsule but he ranks 88th in putts per round. Does that bother you? I didn't think so.
Colin Montgomerie walks off the 2nd tee with playing partners Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Reteif Goosen (l-r) during Tuesday's practice round. Each will try to benefit from Woods' recent troubles.
Buick and Nike pay him enough money to buy Manhattan back and give it to the Indians as a Christmas present this year.
But, he finished tied for twelfth at the U.S. Open, tied for sixteenth at the Buick Classic (and the sponsors cried an awful lot), knotted up at twentieth at the Advil Western Open and then shared twenty-fifth at the British Open. Not real good.
Will there be another down to the wire finish as was the case with Woods and Bob May last year at the PGA at Valhalla? Not likely. Tiger will not be pointing at any hole for a birdie this time around. If there is a "Grrrrrrrrrrrrr" he will become the first player to win three in a row (PGA Championships) since Walter Hagen won four in a row from 1924 to 1928. He has not won on tour since the Memorial Tournament in early June. They don't have droughts in Africa that last as long as this. With a win he can also become only the seventh player to have at least two multiple major seasons. Nice incentives besides the money, which he does not need. The trophy is more meaningful at this stage.
Maybe he will turn his attention to fishing and simply tie a line to his driver, attach a hook and add some bait. Think how far he can cast. Like into the next state. It would be fantastic.
Golf benefited from Woods' arrival. Then there is Duval, Phil Mickelson (0-37 in majors), Sergio Garcia, Justin Leonard, May, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie (who blew the British Open after two great rounds). These golfers are the future of the game today and they have been led, stimulated, pushed to new levels by the leader of the pack...Tiger Woods.
If he lurks, stalks and growls we will have a helluva tournament this weekend. But, if he just snuggles up and purrs with an accompanying weak "meowwww," someone else has to step out of the jungle in Atlanta. Will I make a prediction? You gotta be kidding!