[I wrote this straight through with little editing, but I wanted to go ahead and post it now. I’ll clean it up later.]
At this point in time, how can anyone still claim the sport of golf is better with Tiger Woods? He’s nothing but a distraction. When he plays, the golf media loses all objectivity and acts like Woods — who is in his seventh straight majorless year — is the one riding a two-major win streak, not Rory McIlroy.
They cover Woods out of all proportion to his role in any given tournament, or any given golf season. They cover him for doing nothing, basically. Tiger Woods is to golf what Keeping Up with the Kardashians is to documentary film-making.
We’re told Woods is coverage-worthy because he’s, take your pick: making a comeback; honing a new swing; working with a new coach; getting ready for Augusta; going for his fifteenth major; chasing history.
But that’s ancient history. Rory McIlroy is now the favorite to break Jack Nicklaus’s record. If you are interested in a guy chasing history, the focus should have already shifted to Rory.
And drag your heels all you want, but the page has turned on the PGA Tour. Young players like Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are the dependable stalwarts. And don’t look now, but guys like Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are joining them.
And I don’t mean to overlook guys like Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar, mature players who bring it every week, unlike the well-past-their-prime Woods and Mickelson who get the vast majority of the attention of the golf media. There was a time when winning two out of the most recent three Masters was noteworthy. And a time when a guy who last won the Masters ten years ago was yesterday’s news.
The media often states that they must go after “casual golf fans.” To that I say this: If in seventeen years, you have not converted casual golf fans to regular golf fans, either such a conversion is impossible or else your Tiger Obsession strategy is not working. So, whatever the case, it’s time to take off the training wheels.
If the mythological “casual golf fans” are not interested in the feuds of Patrick Reed and the guys he battled in college, if they are not interested in Rory chasing Jack, if they are not interested in Jordan Spieth winning on Tour as a teenager, well, they are lost causes. If they don’t find the path Brooks Koepka took to his first PGA Tour win interesting, if Michelle Wie finally winning a major and Lydia Ko becoming world number one at age seventeen, it’s time to heave them overboard.
We heard how Woods was going to help “grow the game.” But he hasn’t. Participation in the United States is down. The same can be said about promises golf would be made more “diverse.” It’s moving in the opposite direction.
Saying that every golf fan wants to see Woods return and play well is simply not true. When Brett Favre equivocated between retirement and yet another half-assed season quarterbacking who knows what team, a lot of people had the attitude of, “Just retire already!” Certainly no NFL reporters were pushing the idea that football would die without Favre. And with Favre, his presence in the league did not lessen the quality of coverage of games in which he was not involved. Sadly, with Woods, he dominates American golf media just by not retiring.
A lot of people will be elated when Woods retires because that’s the only way the golf media will stop obsessing over him. Count me in that number. Woods has been bait for trolling by talentless golf writers and broadcasters. He’s become a sordid joke, but we are not supposed to notice, and certainly not to acknowledge.
If I had asked you seven years ago if the media would still obsess over Woods if he went seven years without a major, you would have told me, “Of course not.” You would have been wrong. If anything, the coverage is even more obsessive.
If the only reason you follow golf is because you like (or dislike) Tiger Woods, I hope you go away. If you like Phil Mickelson as a proxy for your dislike of Tiger Woods, I hope you go away. If you don’t need a Kardashian angle to maintain your interest in golf, there’s not need for me to hope anything. You’ll stick around.
If you have seen firsthand the beauty of golf, if you have watched the sun set as you race to finish nine, if you have chipped and putted in your work clothes in the spring until noticing night has fallen and the air has chilled. If you then drove home in the dark listening to a baseball game, thinking about your Saturday tee time. If you have watched, on the other side of that night, the rooster tail flying up from your first putt of the day.
If you have done these things, if you know these things, you will know that golf will be better off without Tiger Woods. It’s sad that that is the case, but the cowardly media has made it so.