Golf survived when 28-year-old Bobby Jones retired in 1930. Golf survived when 34-year-old Byron Nelson (pseudo) retired in 1946. Golf even survived with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus turning grey and retiring from the major championships.
And golf will survive—whether it's this year, or 40 years from now—when Tiger Woods retires. But, as Martin Kaymer admitted recently, golf needs Tiger Woods now more than ever, and he's right. But he has no business saying so.
“I really hope that he will win soon because we need that again. I think the PGA Tour needs that, as well, to get golf going in the world,” Kaymer said yesterday, a week before he attempts to defend his PGA crown.
"Obviously what Rory [McIlrory] did at the U.S. Open was huge already. But Tiger, he has been so successful over the years, I don’t know, seven, eight years he was No. 1 in the world, and now he’s in the mid-30s. It will be great if he comes back and shows us all or proves that he’s the best player who ever played that game.”
There's always been a sense that the rest of the PGA Tour—no matter how accomplished the players were, no matter how much money they had won—was afraid of Tiger, or were at least content to take a back seat to him.
And why not? His presence in the sport increased tournament purses, stirred up interest in golfers as product spokesmen and significantly increased their own celebrity and stature.
What Kaymer recently said only reaffirmed that deference.
Kaymer, Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald and whomever else should have embraced Tiger's time away from the game and be sad to see it ending, as it is this week at Bridgestone. Not because they didn't approve of Tiger's off-the-course indiscretions, and not because his return could steal away victories, or at least large paydays, away from them.
But because—aside from McIlroy—no one really took advantage of Woods' absence. Sure, Darren Clarke won the Claret Jug and Steve Stricker added two more wins to his resume, but Tiger will now be the centerpiece of every tournament the rest of the year, the rest of next year, and for at least a decade to come.....assuming he can stay healthy.
Kaymer is right: the PGA Tour needs Tiger back to increase ticket sales, improve TV ratings and make money for the venues and sponsors. But once the PGA Tour pros start buying into that, it's going to be a Tiger-dominated world again, regardless of whether he wins by 10 strokes or misses the cut.