Is It Time to Start Treating Tiger Woods Like a Regular Golfer on the PGA Tour?
It could be argued that treating Tiger Woods as an average PGA Tour golfer is ludicrous.
If nothing else–and Tiger has done plenty for the game of golf–he has redefined what the casual golf fan is.
Before Tiger came to town, the "casual" golf fan might have known more players, because there were more stars in previous generations that coexisted with the other greatest player of all-time: Jack Nicklaus.
What was unique is that Tiger created his own golf fanbase unlike anything the game had seen before.
What's different is that a casual golf fan today is knowledgeable about Tiger, but nearly ignorant of any other player aside from Phil Mickelson and maybe Rory McIlroy.
Part of the reason no one legitimately challenged Tiger in what can be considered his prime (pre-fire hydrant) was because there wasn't anyone near his ability talent-wise. This was especially true in his remarkable run in the early 2000s.
Casual golf fans have increased in an unforeseen way, but the only individual many of them know of in the game of golf is Tiger.
He is still one of the elite talents golf has ever seen, as he showed with two victories in 2012 and for the first two rounds of this year's U.S. Open. Tiger can still sharpen his incredible focus in and play spectacular golf.
Ironically, Tiger has not only seen blowback from the personal scandal he had. He is receiving blowback on the positive impact he had on golf.
How is coverage of Tiger in sports media?
What Tiger did in his prime globalized golf and generated all kinds of new talent from around the world.
Now, the game has more parity than ever, and thanks to Tiger's scandal, no one is afraid of him.
Despite the level of parity, let's not kid ourselves and say Tiger is just another Tour golfer. When he's in contention, it should create the sort of buzz it still creates.
Relatively speaking though, the coverage of Tiger is slightly ridiculous when he's not in contention.
Golf may be more popular than ever, but it's only when Tiger is playing. Or when Tiger is in contention.
Tiger is No. 4 in the world right now, but many people still consider him the best.
Graeme McDowell was No. 4 in the world last year, and won the 2010 U.S. Open. He won the final match in the Ryder Cup. He beat Tiger head-to-head at the end of that season.
Does any casual golf fan in America, who only watches the PGA Tour, know who he is? Probably not, even though he almost won this year's U.S. Open to boot.
Dustin Johnson won in Memphis the week before the U.S. Open in his second week returning from an injury. He's one of the best American golfers on the planet, super athletic, and hits the ball a mile.
Johnson has been within a silly bunker rule of potentially winning the PGA Championship, contended at last year's British Open, and has held the 56-hole lead at a U.S. Open.
Does any casual golf fan know who the 14th-ranked Johnson is? Probably not, even with a 30-second "These Guys are Good" advertisement.
The problem with the PGA Tour is that it doesn't market its younger players well. It doesn't even market its very consistent players well.
In the highest profile tour in the world, based in America, the only American golfers that get any attention are Tiger and Phil Mickelson.
Rickie Fowler gets a little bit of attention, but he's won just one PGA Tour event.
The PGA Tour, based in America, is still obsessed with one single golfer even though that one single golfer is a shell of what he used to be. I'm referring to Tiger, by the way.
As it stands, 20 of the top 50 players in the world are from the USA. Who does the casual golf fan know besides Tiger, Phil, and maybe Fowler?
Three stellar top 10 Americans: Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner, and Hunter Mahan. Does the casual golf fan know them?
I doubt it.
Johnson, Fowler, recent U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Bill Haas, major champion Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker...
The list goes on.
All of these players have been ranked ahead of Tiger in the world rankings at some point in the past few years.
Yet, the casual golf fan probably knows very few of these fine players.
Although Tiger's impact on golf has been positive overall, the blowback of his unprecedented popularity I referenced earlier destroys the PGA when he is not on the leaderboard.
The point is, the Tour is partially to blame for that.
If Luke Donald, McIlroy, or Lee Westwood–all ranked ahead of Tiger in the rankings right now–were nine strokes back in an event, would they get a legitimate, individual story about it?
The one-word answer is no. How about any of the aforementioned American players?
Not a chance.
Maybe it's not time to treat Tiger like a regular golfer, but it is time again to revamp the "casual fan" definition.
The context for that to occur starts and ends with the PGA Tour and how it promotes itself and its players.
Golf will struggle in the post-Tiger era if fans are constantly stuck in this approximate mindset:
"Oh? Tiger's not playing this week?"
Tiger will retire one day, but golf will move on.
The shape the game is in from a business standpoint and on the PGA Tour at that point will depend on a more egalitarian approach to golfer coverage. It will also depend on a less defeatist attitude when Tiger isn't sniffing victory.
The PGA Tour have plenty of other marketable players to offer other than Tiger.
These are guys who are great with the media, extremely talented, and some have even won majors. What's more is, they're younger! They're the future of the game after Tiger is gone. They need more coverage!
My advice to the Tour?
You have plenty of other exceptional golfing individuals at your disposal.
Act like it.
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