BBC BLOGS - James Pearce
« Previous | Main | Next »

Does golf really need Tiger?

Post categories:

James Pearce | 14:50 UK time, Wednesday, 7 April 2010

I have always dreamed of coming to Augusta. This year I have finally made it. There is, of course, only one reason for that: Tiger Woods.

The world number one's "indiscretions" have caused enormous damage to him and his family, but his loss has been other people's gain. I'm just one of many beneficiaries of the resulting storm that's engulfed him since the end of November.

Take CBS, one of the broadcasters here. They can expect record golf audiences for this year's Masters. CBS president Sean McManus has described this as the second biggest media event in the past 10 years after the Barack Obama inauguration.

If Tiger's absence from the tour was damaging to the sport, his comeback is more than making up for it.

The truth is that Tiger hasn't actually missed that much over the past few months. It's the quietest time of the golfing year, with no majors taking place. Not that that will stop everybody from hyping up his return.

It's not just those journalists who have always dreamt of going to the Masters - and those broadcasters who can now dream of sky high ratings - who are gaining here.

Add in the town of Augusta, where business this week is booming, and golf's sponsors, who can lick their lips at the coverage the sport is going to get over the coming days.

Tiger Woods at AugustaDespite his problems, Tiger Woods is still a massive draw

But all this leads me on to some interesting questions.

Does golf really need Tiger? Can he take the credit for the sport's boom years? What would happen if the 34-year-old American quit golf? All golf fans will have their views. I look forward to reading yours.

These are particularly sensitive issues for Tiger's fellow players. It's hard not to feel sympathy for players who are amongst the best in the world, yet have to field more questions about an opponent than their own game.

On Monday, Tiger tried to build some bridges by apologising to his fellow professionals at his news conference. On Tuesday, some of those players were just as diplomatic.

Phil Mickelson, who's hardly known as one of Tiger's closest mates on tour, said that: "In the last 12 years, he's done remarkable things for the game of golf. Everybody's benefited. We've had more notoriety, need for stories and interest by readers. TV ratings have been higher because of it... I think we are all appreciative."

These are generous comments by Mickelson towards his greatest rival, but the statistics appear to back them up.

In 1996, before Tiger's first major victory, nine players on the PGA Tour had earned a million dollars in prize money. Last year, that figure was up to 91.

But is this really due to Tiger?

In English football's Premier League, salaries have rocketed, too. There are plenty of sexual "indiscretions" there, but no Tiger Woods.

Could it not be argued that Tiger's arrival on the golfing scene simply coincided with a massive rise in the value of sports rights and sports salaries?

Some golf followers talk about a doomsday scenario if Tiger were to walk away.

At times, there is so much discussion about him that you could be forgiven for wondering if he's the only person on the planet capable of holding a golf club.

However, others in the past talked about the difficulties of following in the footsteps of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros etc.

Many tennis fans believed that they'd never see a rivalry that could come close to Borg and McEnroe. Then along came Federer and Nadal.

The truth is that, whatever our role in life, we all like to think that we're indispensable. The uncomfortable reality for most of us is that we aren't.

Is Tiger Woods really an exception to that rule? I look forward to reading your views.


or register to comment.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.