It’s easy to say that Tiger Woods has been one of the best golfers in the world over his career (#HotTake). 14 major championships, second only behind the Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus, and 79 tour event wins over a career can get you places. He recently turned 40 last month, an age that would signal retirement for many athletes in other sports. In golf however, 40 can be the new 30. Just last year, a 65 year old Tom Watson played in the Open Championship. Tiger has a fair amount of injuries to his credit, mainly a slew of back injuries that have sidelined him the past few years. And while at this rate he may never reach Nicklaus’s record of majors, Tiger still needs to be on the tour for good reason.
If you were to take a poll of the non-sports watching public to name one golfer playing today, the vast majority would name Tiger. Woods draws crowds and attention more than any other golfer on tour today. His short game and long drives attract PGA regulars. His body language and reactions draw casual fans. His race has brought in African-American viewers to a predominantly white sports audience. Most importantly, his name alone draws money and ratings. While TV ratings for the Masters tournament last year were up a reported 48 percent from 2014, 2014 marked the lowest ratings had been for the Augusta classic since the second year it was televised. Coincidentally, 2014 was the first year that Tiger missed the Masters altogether since 1994. Woods was also one of the highest paid athletes in the world before his infidelity scandal in 2010, which sent a lot of sponsors packing. His sponsorship deal with Nike jump started the newly formed Nike Golf brand and has turned the brand into the power house it is in the world of golf today. Woods accounts for nearly 22 percent of the the golf industry’s 68.8 billion dollar worth. Those are both big hits to the sport.
So what does the PGA need to do to keep Tiger around?
Convince him he can still win. He doesn’t need a motivational speech, or more money. He needs a chip on his shoulder. Recently, Woods fell outside the top 100 golfers in the world for the first time in his career. Tiger is a competitor at the highest level. He may have single-handedly forced professional golfers re-evaluate their training methods. Being told he can’t do it anymore by the higher ups will be just the chip I’m talking about. While the regular golf fan may have moved on from Tiger to the likes of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Woods still is the face of golf to many people across the globe. Tiger needs to be around to retain the following he has amassed over the past decade. His presence will allow the casual fans to get used to new faces such as Spieth, McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler. Many millennials are turning away from the sport of golf, and even more are abandoning watching it. If he truly cares about the sport that has given him so much, Tiger has the power to change its path as long as he is on the course.
Spark Sports Analyst