with Robert Bicknell
Tiger Woods captured his 71st PGA victory by eight strokes over
the competitors in the BMW Classic last week. After the event, Woods claimed
"I am back to my very best."
The question is whether Woods has indeed returned to form, or
the claim is part of a head game intended to demoralise would-be competitors
following his first loss in a Major when holding the lead after the third round
to unheralded Yang Yong-Eun of Korea.
That loss was literally the shot heard ‘round the world. The
unthinkable happened. Yang proved Tiger to be human after all and now Woods need
to put the fear back into his opponents.
I have said for a long time that Woods wins a lot of his events
through intimidation of the other players. The media is his biggest accomplice
and even the PGA Tour often acts as his personal PR office because without Tiger
winning, the ratings drop and so do the sponsorship dollars.
Every few years another superstar comes along in most every
sport in which the future of the game relies on. In Basketball, it was Magic
Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. In golf, it was Sam Snead, Arnold
Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson and
then Tiger Woods.
All regarded as "franchise’ players, meaning the entire
team can be built around them. The difference in golf is that the team is the
PGA Tour itself, which is a huge load for any one player to carry, so they
Nicklaus – Watson was a classic rivalry, but all attempts to
make a Woods – Mickelson rivalry flopped because he wasn’t up to the task of
sticking it to Tiger. Neither was Ernie Els, or Vijay Singh. Both drank the PGA
Tour Kool-aid and fell into line, or by the wayside, if you will.
Tiger is a tremendous talent, there is no doubt of that, yet
Yang proved he CAN be beaten by someone hungry enough and who refused to drink
The fact of the matter is that while Woods is great for drawing
sponsorship and TV dollars, filling the course with patrons and getting more
people to develop an interest in the game, what will the PGA Tour do when Tiger
Look, he may love the game, but with a gazillion dollars in the
bank, the competitive fires will slowly burn out as it happens to most athletes.
He’ll want to spend more time with the family, work on different business
deals and eventually, trot himself out only for the Majors or some charity
So the idea of building up Tiger to be some kind of unbeatable
foe is a double-edged sword. It draws the dollars now, but with no competition
available, it becomes mundane and boring.
So for the future, we must look towards Europe or Asia for the
"next big thing" because to be the best you have to beat the best. If
they fall into the Tiger worship trap, they can never face him down.
Fortunately, Europeans respect Tiger, but don’t worship him, which is why he
doesn’t fare too well in the Ryder Cup or the British Opens (yes, I know
Asian golfers aren’t ready to compete against him yet because
they have too many issues with being in a foreign land and away from their
families and familiar foods / culture. But this will change as these kids become
more and more established and travel more.
Australia/New Zealand have produced some great golfers in the
past and will continue to do so for a long time to come. The problem again lies
with the travel issue. They can make a decent playing in Australia or on the
Asian or European tours, so a few don’t put themselves through the hassle of
dealing with the US Tour. Those who do often come up short because of lack of
experience with that style of play, not a lack of talent.
Once they realise that Tiger beats people in the head before
they ever tee it up, they’ll develop into a legitimate threat to his crown.