Tiger Woods or the Field? Is Golf Facing an Identity Crisis?

Adam LawrenceContributor IMay 12, 2009

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 10:  Tiger Woods plays a tee shot during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 10, 2009 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods. The most explosive player in sports since...Well that's up for debate, but almost every golfer in today's world will tell you how much Tiger has changed the sport in ways even the greatest athletes can't even compare.

However, after Wood's recent knee surgery the question that now poses the PGA Tour, fans, and golf in general, is whether or not the sport will continue to roll with Tiger or if there is a new generation of golf that is about to begin.

Currently, Woods is everything on the Tour. While this may seem obvious, think about the impacts he has had on modern day golf. There is no bigger marketing campaign than that of Tiger and Nike Golf and there is no bigger fan base for any player or even athlete in his or her respective sport across the world.

But has this time passed?

While I do not think that Tiger will struggle with the finale of his career, and I believe that he will one day surpass the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, Woods still has a heavy load to carry, and the competition on the Tour? Getting better by the minute.

Look at guys like Stenson who just crushed the field at the Players by shooting a 66 in the final round. While you can look at this and say that it was just his day and that it was an off-day for Tiger, this could be the end of a generation that saw Tiger Woods dominate like no other player in sports.

Like I said, Tiger is too committed, too motivated, and too good to allow anything like a knee surgery to get in his way. But the sport of golf and the competition may soon be. There are young guns like Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, and J.B. Holmes who are improving by the minute and the field in tournaments is as powerful as its ever been.

If Tiger stops his current and previous domination of golf, the sport as we know it could go through some dramatic changes. And these changes won't just be seen with the Tour or the Players on the Tour, but the sport itself.

Golf is about to enter a very odd phase in which its best and most cherished player may soon be conquered and if that happens, it won't be good.

The PGA Tour will soon face an identity crisis, and will quite possibly have to change the way it promotes the game. Without Tiger dominating as much as he did in the past, the Tour will have to either focus on ratings and focus on guys like Phil, Garcia, Vijay, and even Boo Weekley to help carry the Tour and its revenue.

But...We are forgetting that NO ONE IS TIGER! NO ONE. And as hard as these guys may try, for right now, no one will or may never ever be on his level. Which means that what will likely happen is that the Tour will find a conglomerate of players to promote and golf as we know it will change forever.

Instead of watching the Tiger show, guys like Stenson, Immelman, and J.B. Holmes will be put in charge of maintaining the financial aspect of the Tour. While I think that having a collective field that is always competitive makes golf more interesting and more appealing, I am in the vast minority.

Without Tiger, there is nothing special, nothing crazy, and nothing obscene that could happen in tournaments.

I am not the biggest Tiger fanatic, in fact I am almost always cheering for the underdog when he plays in the final round. But the collective viewer of golf tournaments don't turn on the television to see guys like Rory Sabbatini stripe a three iron down the center of the fairway or even walk away with a final round of 65 and take a tournament.

They turn on the T.V. to see Tiger do his thing, which is drain 55 foot putts to win tournaments and hit some of the most incredible golf shots ever seen.

Without Tiger, the Tour becomes more interesting in that every player has a legitimate shot at taking majors and tournaments, but it will see its downfall when viewers have better things to do than trying to pick their new favorite golfer.

Tiger is Tiger. No one else can do what he does, and this is awfully scary for the PGA Tour and the sport of golf while heading into the future