In this article we are going to use Google Trends to show why the Tiger Woods propaganda machine is working overtime to keep his name in the headlines.
Recall some of weirdness from the Woods camp in the past year. The sort-of-announcement about a sort-of-sabbatical. Assurances of 100 percent health mere days, or even hours, before a withdrawal from a tournament due to injury. His Super Bowl week appearance at the Phoenix Open, his first time to play the event in 14 years.
Hey, everybody, look at me! I’m Mr. Excitement, yeah! I’ve got a new coach. I’ve got another new swing. Talk about that. Come on! It’ll be just like old times. Red shirt and all that. I feel great, I’m here to win, yeah!
The smell of desperation.
Why? Well, let’s go through the past five years of Google search trends:
This is the year just after Woods’s scandals were exposed. The main takeaway here is how little interest there was in Rory McIlroy compared to Woods. The blue line barely leaves the floor. Also worth noting is how the interest in Woods fell dramatically over the course of the year, as the scandal became old news.
This is the year or Rory’s Masters meltdown and his redemption at the U.S. Open. The two peaks represent those two tournaments. Note the staying power Rory had after the U.S. Open win, as well as the fact that Rory had the highest peak of the entire year. Rory went from nowhere in 2010 to having the moment of greatest popularity in 2011.
2012 was the year Woods starting winning some tournaments again. He topped Rory all year long, but contrast this year with 2010 when Rory barely registered. Rory’s Augusta and PGA Championship peaks were right there with Woods’s numbers.
2013 was the year Woods won five events and the year Rory switched to Nike equipment. The takeaway from the chart is that Rory is not going away. Even though he had a miserable year, not winning a single event until December, he still drew a fair amount of attention.
This is Waterloo for the Woods camp. Rory has the highest peak and nearly had the second-highest. Woods’s moment in the sun came during Golf Channel’s empty parking space coverage, Rory’s for winning two majors. Perhaps even more distressing for Team Tiger, Rory had multi-week periods where he stayed above Woods.
These searches don’t exist in a vacuum. If the golf media dwells on a golfer, that is going to create/maintain an interest in mind of the public. He must be important; he’s all they talk about. People will come to use “Tiger” or “Rory” as a shortcut in their Internet searches to find information on the golf tournament being played that week. [Also, the search engines’ own news sites use search popularity when choosing which Top Stories to feature. Right now, for example, Rory McIlroy is a Top Story at Google News, alongside Hillary Rodham Clinton, Apple Inc., and Selma, Alabama.]
A self-reinforcing cycle is created. The media obsesses over Tiger Woods. The public links golf with Tiger Woods and therefore uses “Tiger” for Internet searches. The media, knowing this, puts “Tiger Woods” in every article and title they possibly can — so their articles will show up at the top of those searches. (This is why guys like Kyle Porter work Woods’s name into seemingly every article and title. If he writes an article on J.B. Holmes, say, few are going to find the article with a “J.B. Holmes” search. On the other hand, if he titles the article, “J.B. Holmes Trying to Top Tiger Woods Record,” they will find that with “Tiger” searches.) If the title isn’t feasible, next best (for the search engines) is to put Woods’s name in the first sentence or two, even though there is no reason to do so. An example would be: J.B. Holmes channeled his inner Tiger Woods today when he…
When you see those gratuitous mentions of Woods, know they are there for the search engines. Now, as more and more people use “Rory” as their shortcut for “Tell me about this week’s golf tournament,” we see McIlroy starting to draw level with, and even surpass, Woods in these search engine trends. It’s important to note that this reinforces the readers’ behavior as well. If he uses “Tiger” for his search shortcut for “golf articles,” it’s only effective if the writers insert “Tiger Woods” into every article. As long as the writers do that, there is no need for those readers to switch to “PGA golf” or even to “Rory.” If they type in “Tiger” and it brings up all the new articles on Rory, they still get what they want.
This is not a good development for the Woods PR machine because there is a tipping point aspect to fame, golf or otherwise. Consider the following chart:
The American golf media seems to be invested in the idea of Woods being THE golfer. I’m really not sure why. I once thought it was Nike’s gigantic advertising budget, but Rory is also a Nike endorser. I am drawing a complete blank. I suppose it could be the Ryder Cup or generic flag-waving, but those seem pretty far-fetched. And it might be more accurate to say the American golf media is anti-Rory more than pro-Woods. They are fine with Mickelson, too. But they seem hellbent on doing all they can to keep “Rory” from becoming the shortcut for search engine queries for “the latest from the world of golf.”
If you doubt there is anti-Rory sentiment, ask yourself this: If Tiger Woods were absolutely healthy, had won in Dubai in January, and was going for his third major in a row come the Masters, would he be getting more coverage than Rory is getting?
Unfortunately for the American golf media, the outcome is inevitable. Already, in other parts of the world, “Rory” is the shortcut for Internet golf searches. And that is not going to change any time soon. Notice how many of the kids in the Drive, Pitch, and Putt competition list Rory McIlroy as their favorite player.
It’s 2009, and Rory McIlroy is Kim Kardashian to Tiger Woods’s Paris Hilton. There’s no reversing this trend, and the Woods people know it.