Is Tiger Woods the Most Powerful Athlete in the World?

Take TenCorrespondent IApril 4, 2009

This "Tiger Woods" name thing is a bit informal don't you think? Perhaps, Your Majesty Tiger Woods would be more fitting. After all, Tiger Woods predicted by Forbes magazine to be the first Billionaire athlete by 2010 and No. 1 ranked golfer is by far the most powerful single athlete in the entire world. 

We got our first sample of Tigermania back in the late 1990's. We instantly loved it. What we didn't realize over the past decade and a half is that we were witnessing the birth of a sports monarchy.

We've become dependent on it. Like a drug, we need it now just to function. Take away our Tiger, and the golf world goes into withdrawal, unsure of what to do, unable to do what needs to be done, unable to care about whatever is accomplished. 

The numbers with Tiger vs. without Tiger are absurd

More than anything, the absence of Tiger Woods during his knee operation rehabilitation is a horrifying demonstration to the PGA that they need Tiger far more than Tiger needs them.

Tiger Woods' comeback victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Sunday on NBC delivered the highest rating of any golf tournament since last June’s U.S. Open, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The final round earned a 4.9/10 rating, a 23 percent increase from last year. The rating eclipses two major tournaments last year—The British Open and PGA Championship—which Woods did not play in because of knee surgery.

via Tiger Woods' Comeback Victory Scores Big Ratings - 2009-03-30 17:26:09 | Broadcasting & Cable.

What this means in plain English is, people prefer watching a regular tournament with Tiger Woods participating over watching Major Championship Tournaments without Tiger.

What's perhaps even more staggering is the free fall in ratings in viewership in the absence the Emperor Tiger Woods:

According to The Nielsen Company, the PGA CHAMPIONSHIPS with Tiger on Saturday 2007-'08 had a viewership of 5,947,000 on CBS. In 2008-2009 the same PGA CHAMPIONSHIPS on Saturday without Tiger CBS saw viewership declined to 1,298,000, a disastrous -78.2 percent dropoff.

NBC saw similar results at the BMW GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP on Sunday 2007-08 where 4,358,000 watched Tiger win. The next year only 1,678,000 tuned in to watch "somebody else" win;  a -61.5 percent decline. Overall, every single tournament event in Golf endured similar losses, regardless of weekday or weekend, month or geography. No Tiger meant no viewership.

A World Without Tiger Is A World Without Golf

The frightening irrelevance of the British Open and PGA Championships without Tiger playing has to be disturbing for golf's tournament organizers. Never before has one single athlete embodied the golden standard of excellence to such an extent that his mere presence at a tournament sanctifies it's legitimacy as a premier competition. 

I wouldn't suggest in reality that Tiger Woods would exercise his sheer economic and social clout in malevolent ways. But what if he were to become a dictator of golf? He could demand that he be dressed in royal robes and that all in his presence must bow down.

Who would stop him?

But more seriously, in today's world, Tiger Woods can unilaterally dictate conditions for which tournaments he blesses with his presence, and which companies he chooses to endorse.

Heck, with a flick of his hand he could force entire companies to drop their endorsements of any player that happens to disagree with his sensibilities. Nobody yields power like this, or perhaps nobody has EVER been in a situation to even fathom such power, until now. 

The Rise of a Demi God

When Derek Jeter misses a game, MLB survives. When Kobe Bryant is injured, the NBA does fine. Tom Brady missed a whole season, the Patriots were devastated, but the NFL was fine (the Steelers rejoiced).

When Tiger Woods does not play in a tournament, the tournament does not exist. Tiger Woods, is the metaphorical tree that falls in the forest...if it falls, and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

How about if a tournament happens and Tiger doesn't play, does it matter? You may argue what you wish, but not long ago, some people even suggested that maybe there should be an asterisk next to the major championships which occurred in Tiger Woods' absence.

While this writer thinks that absurd, it may be unavoidable that astute debaters of sports lore in the future will be quick to discount certain tournament achievements by saying, "well that tournament doesn't count...Tiger wasn't there..."

Perhaps, that's just the reality of golf today in the era of the Tiger Woods Dynasty...long live the Emperor.