20 years ago Tiger Woods turned professional and coined the phrase "Hello, World". Over the last 20 years we have been witness to something we in all likelihood will never see again in the game of golf. Pure domination on the golf course, a super celebrity off the course and an ambassador for golf that grew the game in ways no one ever has or will. We have also seen some of the very public lows of Tiger Woods the obvious notable being his scandal that left him in an ugly divorce and imapcted on his golf gameand public image in a way no one saw coming. One year ago, almost 19 years to the day after turning professional, Tiger Woods played his last competitive round of golf on the PGA Tour and has since undergone another back surgery and lengthy rehab. Now here is a scary thought, could that tap in for an even par 70 and T10 finish at the 2015 Wyndham Championship be the last stroke Tiger makes as a touring professional? A bold statement for sure but one that might not be as far from the truth as you may think.
Those who know me know that I am not a fan of Tiger in the slightest. In my opinion I have a valid reason for this and its not his infidelity, his arrogance, or that he seems to pull out of any golf tournament that he is not going to win with an "injury". It is the media. The media blows Tiger up in any way that they can. When watching a golf tournament in which Tiger is in the field, I will see every single one of his shots even when he is 5 over thru 6 and see maybe a quarter of the leader's shots. Not a fan of that practice. A young up and coming golfer who birdies his last 6 holes to win his first tour event will lose the spotlight if Tiger decides to be seen hitting 3 wedge shots in the water. Seriously. This is no fault of Tiger's, it is just the damaging effect the media can have now a days and ironically enough it may be the reason Tiger calls it quits sooner than some may think.
Imagine Tiger tees it up on the PGA Tour this fall and shoots 80, 78 and misses the cut. What do you think the first question the media will ask and open the guy up to? My guess is it would be something along the lines of "What is wrong with your game? Is Tiger done?". Imagine he makes the cut and finishes T35. A common question I assume may be asked is "What is wrong with Tiger? Why isn't he winning?". I'm not way off base here, we've seen this happen with the media before with Tiger and even Jordan Speith this season. Jordan won 5 times last year and after he didn't win for a three tournament stretch the media began talking about him being in a "slump" and questioning his ability as a golfer. This is the negative effect Tiger's dominance has had on the media expectations. If Tiger isn't winning, the media and the public are not satisfied. So, if you were Tiger Woods would you be excited to come back and play golf on the PGA Tour if anything less than a win was considered failure? I wouldn't, that makes the game very stressful and the furthest thing from enjoyable. Tiger is set for life financially and otherwise so is there really a need for him to come back and expose himself to all of that stress and scrutiny? The media wants so desperately for the guy to come back and yet they may be the reason that he doesn't.
Tiger Woods is playing golf right now. People who are fortunate enough to golf or be employed at some of the courses in the Florida area have seen or heard about Tiger playing regularly with good friends like Micheal Jordan. Tiger's health is not the concern and maybe the state of his game when playing these rounds is not PGA Tour caliber but those who say he still is unable to hit balls and practice are mistaken. He can play golf but maybe where he is happiest doing so is out of the public eye among those who lay no judgement if he hits a poor shot. His good friend Michael Jordan was even quoted as saying that he believes Tiger is tired and would like to retire, that he has no compassion or happiness within his life. Even Tiger has said that he has "had a good run" in reference to his career and future in the game. Very cryptic messages coming from the man himself and those who know him the best.
The Tiger Era is over. If the state of his game over the past few years and his large absence from the game is not proof enough, the words spoken by Bob Parsons, founder of the new high end equipment company PXG, should provide a prime example of how Tiger is beginning to be perceived in the business side of the industry. When Nike exited the club manufacturing side of the golf business a slough of high profile golfers became available for other club manufactures to try and sign, Tiger Woods being one of them. When asked about the potential of signing someone like Tiger, Bob Parsons said he would not be interested in signing Tiger but showed a lot of enthusiasm in signing players like Rory McIlroy or Brooks Keopka. Basically Parsons wants to talk to anyone left hanging by Nike EXCEPT Tiger Woods. Ouch. While I do think Parsons may be alone in this way of thinking, it speaks volumes that anyone would turn their nose up at the idea of signing Tiger Woods.
It is not all doom and gloom however. Even if Tiger never returned to competitive golf he has done more to grow the game than arguably anyone else. All of the high quality players that we see on the PGA Tour now are products of his influence. They all grew up idolizing and emulating Tiger and pushed themselves to try and achieve the greatness that Tiger exuded. We could even go as far as to say that the "Tiger Effect" had an impact on the economy. With this influx of people playing the game because of the "Tiger Effect" many jobs were enhanced or even created to deal with the increase of traffic on golf courses, driving ranges or golf retailers. Purses on the PGA Tour have double since Tiger came on tour and sponsorship and endorsement money has gone through the roof. The list goes on and on with all the positive impacts that Tiger has had on the game of golf over the past 20 years and will continue to have into the future.
With all of that in mind, I'd like to second Tiger's comment of "I've had a pretty good run". I do believe Tiger will play golf competitively again but everyone needs to pump the brakes on the expectation levels that we have for the man. Otherwise, we may see him totally lose his passion for the game, if he hasn't already, and we may soon hear him coin the phrase, "Goodbye, World".