2011 Open Championship: 5 Reasons Why It's Better off Without Tiger Woods
For just the second time in his illustrious career, Tiger Woods will not be teeing off at The Open Championship, which will be hosted this year at Royal St. Georges Golf Club.
The last time Tiger missed golf's most prestigious major was back in 2008, when injuries prevented his participation in both The Open Championship and The PGA Championship.
Now, nearly two years removed from his infamous "car accident," Woods has toppled from atop the World Golf Rankings to a forgettable 19th. He has missed cuts, pulled out of tournaments, been injured frequently, and will now miss his second consecutive major.
But Tiger Woods is still arguably golf's most important figure, and thus, his absence continues to generate headlines and questions about golf's ability to generate fans without him.
Regardless, this year's Open Championship could be one of the best in recent memory. Never in this generation of golf has there been so many fresh faces and exciting players contending for the most coveted trophy in sports: The Claret Jug.
Here are five reasons why the Open Championship is better off without Tiger Woods
1. Tiger Woods Taints the Prestige of the Open Championship
Every time Tiger Woods steps into the tee box, all eyes are on him.
He is one of the only golfers to get airtime for each and every tee shot. Oftentimes, that is true regardless of the strokes on his scorecard. Turn on the TV and you will see him in every recap, good or bad.
Why is that?
Obviously because he's the greatest golfer of this generation, and for some, the greatest golfer of all time. He has more than earned his airtime and his place in the highlight reels.
Too bad his coverage never seems to stop there.
CBS and ESPN's coverage of golf over the past few years has over-featured Tiger in every possible instance. Woods has become even more inflated than he had made himself. He was bigger than golf, bigger than any tournament, champion, or player.
All this, not at the the height of his greatness, but instead, at his greatest low. Golf has been afraid it couldn't live without this icon who had made them so popular and noteworthy.
Tiger has grown so big that he has become a taint on the game itself. The prestige of golf has been warped and diminished with every mention of his name because people forget it is not all about Tiger.
Golf's oldest and most prestigious tournament does not want or need that kind of coverage. Woods is not bigger than the 151-year-old Open Championship, yet still, somehow he seems to be covered that way.
2. The Open Championship Needs a New UK Champion
The last time a golfer from the United Kingdom won The Open Championship was in 1999, following the most famous collapse in international golf history by French golfer Jean Van De Velde.
After Van De Velde's notorious trip to Carnoustie's 18th hole burn, Scottish golfer Paul Lawrie defeated American Justin Leonard and Van De Velde in a four-hole playoff. Lawrie became just the second Scotsman to hoist the Claret Jug since World War II.
If Van De Velde had not been so stereotypically French—a loser—then the UK's Open Championship drought would have extended all the way back to 1992, when Englishman Nick Faldo claimed his third Open Championship title at Muirfield.
Faldo became everything that European golf needed.
Arguably, the greatest English champion of all time, he was the pride and joy of England. England finally had a true champion in Faldo, who won six major championships ('89, '90, '96 Masters, '87, '90, '92 Open Championship), and on June 13, 2009 became the first golfer in history to be knighted in his lifetime.
In the last 40 years, prior to 2010, the only other UK golfers to win any major championship are Welsh golfer Ian Woosnam and Scottish golfer Sandy Lyle.
The Open Championship desperately needs to see another golfer, preferably a young golfer, from the United Kingdom hoist the Claret Jug. It has been far too long.
Note: The Republic of Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom.
3. The Open Championship Won't Be About Jack and Tiger
Without Tiger, this year's Open Championship could be a catalyst for the future of golf instead of a renewed debate about Tiger Woods' chase of Jack Nicklaus. It seemed to be the only thing anyone wanted to talk about before, during, and after a major.
Woods is just four major championship victories away from tying Jack for the all-time major championship victory record. While it is impossible to overstate the magnitude of that sort of accomplishment, it is overshadowing the notable happenings of golf.
If Woods was playing with any likeness to his former self, that kind of coverage might be warranted.
Much like a woman who tries to keep the food she made warm for when her husband comes home from work, so is CBS and ESPN trying to keep golf's biggest cash cow warm for history's arrival.
Golf is hungry for a new great champion, and The Open Championship could find one—without Tiger.
4. The Open Championship Could Crown Golf a New Star
Rory McIlroy is making quite a name for himself following his strong showing through three rounds at this year's Masters, and his first major championship victory at the U.S Open. At St. Andrews just one year ago, McIlroy tied the record for the lowest round at a major with a nine-under(-par) 63 in his first round.
With a win at this year's Open Championship following his U.S Open victory, McIlory would join the elite company of Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, and Ben Hogan as just the fifth golfer in the last 75 years to win both championships in the same season.
If McIlroy could pull it off, he would solidify his place in golf as its new star and ambassador.
Other notable young golfers that have a chance to stall McIlroy's success and be crowned with greatness all their own are: Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Martin Kaymer (GER), Rickie Fowler (USA), Jason Day (AUS), and Tom Lewis (ENG).
Note: Both Schwartzel and Kaymer already have major championship victories. Kaymer is currently not a member of the PGA Tour.
5. Tiger Woods Has Outlived His Usefulness
The lights have dimmed on Tiger Woods' career, and many people are ready to turn out the lights. The 14-time major champion used to control the spotlight, but those days are done.
At the height of his greatness, Woods brought more new fans to golf than Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Lee Travino, Nick Faldo, Gary Player, and Arnold Palmer combined.
In the 2000-2001 golf season, Tiger Woods put golf back on the map as a major sport with his famous Tiger Slam (U.S Open '00, Open Championship '00, PGA Championship '00, Masters '01).
Golf was no longer an old man's game. It was sexy, classy, and Woods was someone to be admired. America had a hero on the world stage and a new fan demographic exploded: children.
People of all ages were tuning in to see what Tiger Woods would do next. Was he going to surge from behind to victory on Sunday, or was he going to dominate for a wire-to-wire victory? For many people, it was the first time that they ever said, "You wanna watch some golf," to a friend or family member.
Now, 10 years after the Tiger Slam, golf is doing just fine, but the same cannot be said of Tiger.
Woods is now nothing more than a distraction from golf, drawing embarrassing headlines about his personal life and health. Worse than that, Tiger Woods has not won a tournament in what seems like forever. Most people do not even know the last time Tiger won a tournament (November 2009 at the Australian Masters).
While many still root for Woods, he is not the reason why most people continue to watch. The 35-year-old former Stanford Cardinal put golf back on the map and made a place for himself in the history books, but his glory days are over.
With young stars like McIlroy, Fowler, Schwartzel, Lewis, and others competing in this year's Open Championship, it might be the first time golf is better off without Tiger Woods.