When will the Tiger prowl again?
Love him or hate him, he is a polarizing personality not only in the golf world but in all sports. According to Tiger, he wants to get back playing again, and it may happen as soon as the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. But, does the PGA Tour really need him as much as they once did? With rising stars like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day dominating the headlines right now, is Tiger missed? The dominance we saw from Spieth last year in the four majors likely contributed to TV ratings rebounding somewhat. Even in this time of global economic uncertainty, we are not seeing a slump in the purses awarded on the PGA Tour. If anything, the amount awarded is still on the rise. So, if all this is true, do we really need him back? And who wants him back the most? Ask the players and, to a man, they will say they all want him back. Why? $$$$$
When Tiger first turned pro in 1996 there were about 30 players that made over 1 million dollars in that year. In the time since Tiger turned pro that number has jumped to over 170 golfers that made 1 million per year. Greg Norman, one of the preeminent players of the era just before Tiger, made 14 million dollars in his illustrious career. Since Tiger’s emergence, a golfer by the name of Mark Wilson, who joined the tour at the same time as Tiger, has earned just over 15 million, putting him some 3 spots ahead of The Shark. Here are some of the other golfers that have out-earned Norman from the post Woods era; Tom Pernice Jr.-14.95 mil, John Huston-14.96 mil, Paul Casey-15.24 mil, J.J. Henry-15.30 mil, Kevin Sutherland-15.65 mil. All of these gentlemen turned pro right around 1996 and all are fine players in their own right, but none of them are in the class of Greg Norman. Do you think their career money stats benefitted from Tiger’s presence?
Another obvious area that Tiger has had a dramatic impact is on the sheer popularity of the game. When Tiger turned pro there were approximately 14000 golf courses in the US. Equate that to 100 years of golf course building and that means that 140 courses per year were built during that time. Since then there have been over 6000 new courses built, an average of over 300 per year. Do the math…we are now building twice as many golf courses per year as we did in the past. All at a time when golf course construction costs are out of this world. Even when you factor in inflationary statistics, the growth of the game is nothing less than staggering. And that is just in the USA. What about the rest of the world? How much of that is due to Tiger? I would suggest it is a significant amount.
More than anything the game misses someone like Tiger. Not the Tiger of today…but the Tiger of a few years ago. The sports world has very few athletes that can stand on the pedestal that we put them on. Tiger is no different. I would never even try to justify his actions that caused his fall from grace. But at the same time, I refuse to vilify him. He is just a man, albeit a man that had a profound influence on the game he loves. I, for one, hope that he comes back and rediscovers his love for the game…and also the people that he influenced so much.