Tiger Woods: Is the Golfer Bigger Than the Game?

Joel Barker@joelabarkerSenior Writer IMarch 18, 2010

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 13:  Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the 7th hole during the final round of the 2008 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 13, 2008 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images for Golfweek)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When Tiger—or rather, Tiger’s people—announced his first tournament back would be the Masters, all the pundits jumped on the story with reckless abandon.

Phrases like “He thinks he’s bigger than the game,” and “How dare Tiger bring his three- ring circus to the grandest golf tournament in the world,” were the thoughts of the day.

I can understand the golf purist who despises the fact that Tiger could somehow overshadow golf’s premiere event. I realize there are at least some parts of Tiger’s recent story that could jeopardize CBS’ first-class coverage of the greatest golf tournament in the world.

What happens if TMZ reporters purchase a ticket? Could they potentially end up disrupting things? Will there be helicopters?

Does Augusta National have the right to institute a no-fly zone over the course in case some of the yellow journalists get the bright idea?

I understand the concern. But that does not mean I have to agree with the all the consternation over it.

Tiger Woods is bigger than the game of golf. As a matter of fact, Tiger Woods dwarfs the game of golf.

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The very fact that people are worried about a circus atmosphere should show us all that Tiger Woods surpasses the game of golf by an infinite margin.

For years, we have accused various athletes of thinking they were bigger than their respective sports.

One athlete who immediately comes to mind is Barry Bonds.

Bonds thought he was bigger than baseball—and he was despised for it. Whether it was his thinking that no one would ever catch him taking performance-enhancing drugs or his constant flaunting of his greatness, Bonds’ attitude was that of someone who clearly thought the game should bow at his feet.

No one can be bigger than the former national pastime—especially not Bonds.

The current national pastime, NFL football, has had its share of Joe Namaths and Brett Favres.

Athletes who seemingly hold their sports hostage with their own bloated self-images are hated by the masses. I understand that.

However, those three are not even close to the level of Tiger Woods.

Not even in the same universe.

Golf has long been an enjoyable sport to play—especially for middle-aged men who make more than $50,000 annually.

Those who watched the sport B.T.—before Tiger—generally followed along those same demographical lines. The sport catered to the bank president, the company CEO, and the high-profile salesman.

When Tiger blew up the field in 1997 at the ripe old age of 22, the door was opened for young fans. Fans who were used to baseball, basketball, and football began to pay attention to golf.

The game shifted from presidents and CEOs to busboys and parking lot attendants.

Personally, I did not care for golf at all throughout my childhood. I spent more time watching and playing the big three: baseball, basketball, and football.

After that ’97 Masters, I was hooked.

Three months later, after watching Tiger smoke the field, I picked up my first golf club at 15 years of age. I shot my first 110 a few weeks after that.

Later, I received my first subscription to Golf Digest .

For a southern boy who lives and breathes SEC football and Atlanta Braves baseball, that was quite the turnaround. I was just one of the millions of young people who decided to pick up a game I knew nothing about because of Tiger.

Today, nearly 13 years later, Tiger still has the same effect. He has made golf must-see TV.

Tiger Woods is absolutely bigger than the game of golf.

Barry Bonds did not make baseball great. Baseball—and chemicals—made Barry Bonds great. Football made Joe Namath and Brett Favre great.

Tiger Woods made golf great.

I, for one, cannot wait to see him at Amen Corner on Masters Sunday—even if the recording of bubbling brooks and beautiful birds are drowned out by the sound the helicopter blades and flashbulbs.

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