Do You Still Think Golf Doesn't Need Tiger Woods?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 25:  Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell walk down the 18th hole during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 25, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

You think that golf doesn’t need Tiger Woods?

Well, did you happen to watch the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday?

When was the last time you saw a crowd ten deep lining the entire first fairway at a standard PGA Tour event?

Hmm, I wonder if they were all there to see Graeme McDowell hit his opening tee shot.

When was the last time you saw a par three (outside of TPC Scottsdale) completely surrounded by 10,000 spectators?

Did you even watch last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational?

The television ratings for the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational were up 129 percent from last year, and were the best since 2009, when (ahem), a gentleman by the name of Tiger Woods also happened to be in contention and would eventually win in dramatic fashion with a birdie on the 72nd hole.

During the final hour of play, golf actually out-rated the Kansas vs. North Carolina NCAA Elite Eight game, which is a feat completely unheard-of in professional golf, even with Woods in the mix.

Heck, all of the excitement surrounding Woods’ bid to win his first official PGA Tour event since 2009 drove Arnold Palmer’s blood pressure through the roof and sent him to the hospital.

Does anyone actually think that all of these people tuned in to watch Ian Poulter?

How about Ernie Els, was he responsible for the 129% increase in overnight ratings?

No?

Well surely then it must have been Bud Cauley that everyone was tuning in to see?

For those purists who believe golf doesn’t need Woods, well, get off of your high horse and simply look at the numbers.

As Golf Channel’s John Hawkins likes to say, “Tiger Woods doesn’t move the needle, he is the needle.”

The massive increase in the game’s popularity over the past 15 years can be attributed to one man—Tiger Woods.

Tournament purses have increased by more than 200 percent since Woods arrival in 1997, and the money players earn in endorsement deals today have increased by at least as much over the past decade. 

During no other 15 year stretch in professional golf have purses increased even remotely near as much as they have since Woods burst onto the scene in 1996.  

For the rest of the PGA Tour, and professional golfers around the globe for that matter, Woods has been a human ATM machine.

In 1996, only nine players on tour earned more than $1 million, and no one earned more than $2 million.

In 2011, 89 players earned more than $1 million, 37 players earned more than $2 million and 21 players earned more than $3 million.

The $30 million FedEx Cup cash grab…thank you Tiger Woods.

The FedEx Cup Playoff series was put in place entice the game’s biggest stars, and particularly Woods, to attend more events after the PGA Championship.

Whether you love it or hate it, casual golf fans and general sports fans have accounted for the game’s growth in popularity, ratings, attendance and purses over the past 15 years.

And where there are crowds, the sponsors will, and have followed.

True golf fans will tune in whether Woods is in contention or not, but they do not move the needle, in fact, they are simply the starting point from which to measure any real movement of the needle from.

We all love to talk about how the game is bigger than one man, and that may ultimately be so.  

But just ask yourself this, if Woods were sitting at home and Rory McIlory were leading the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, do you think there is any way that the telecast would have garnered higher ratings than the Kansas vs. North Carolina game?

Do you think there is any way that 129 percent more viewers would have tuned in to watch the event?

McIlory has the skill and charisma to move the needle, but as Hawkins loves to say, "Tiger Woods IS the needle,” and that was never more evident than yesterday afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

For more golf news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report.

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