The popular topic of conversation in golf circles this week is the sore back of the game’s No. 1 player, who could conceivably lose his top ranking to Adam Scott, that alone being enough fuel to burn the Tiger talk incessantly.
The blah-blah about Tiger Woods was already going strong heading into last week’s Honda Classic, with the Tiger defenders warning everybody not to put too much stock in Woods’ slow start this season.
The thing is that it was Tiger’s defenders doing most of the talking because few reasonable observers of the game would start wringing their hands until at least after the Masters about Woods’ lacklustre start.
That would definitely change as the season progressed, but it almost seemed as if the T-Nation was trying to beat everybody else to it by building a protective shield around Tiger before the first major, verbal offensive was launched by the other side.
When Tiger barely made the cut on Friday, it seemed to be a bigger story than Rory McIlroy leading the Honda Classic. Ditto when Tiger shot a 65 on Saturday and appeared to be back on track.
Then, he withdrew with back spasms, arguably bigger news than the four-man playoff that included McIlroy and left Russell Henley as the eventual winner. Even in Canada, Tiger’s WD seemed bigger news than David Hearn’s solid T6 finish.
Was Woods just frustrated with a front nine 40 and five over performance through 13 holes in the final round or was his WD legit?
Is it his training that’s causing the back problem? Are injuries starting to take their toll on Tiger at the age of 38? Will he play Doral? Was he just being cautious with the Masters coming up? The speculation continues.
In the minds of many of his defenders, to even speak of the excessive coverage that Woods receives on television and from other media outlets automatically labels you a Tiger-hater, a term that has been used quite often.
There are few, if any, that would deny Woods’ place among the game’s greatest players ever, if not the greatest player ever should he ever reached the 18 majors that Jack Nicklaus won.
It’s TV, the media in general and the people who can’t get past him that should be taking the heat, rather than Woods himself, but labeling those who dare look at the rest of the PGA Tour as Tiger-haters is the easy way out.
A similar situation has developed within the golf industry, where it’s been suggested that efforts to grow the game somehow translate into the desire to change it.
Personally, I agree with Kevin Thistle here where he says that we don’t need to accept the fact that participation in the game is stalled, so we must move forward in our efforts to increase the numbers.
Using non-traditional means to grow the game is meant to introduce people to the game, not change it in its purest form.
The current GNN Poll on the home page emphasizes that few golfers actually play formal events, so the goal is to convince them that a golf course can have a fun atmosphere.
The idea is to get them started, so they can see each step to the next level of the game along the way. Having more people learn the game is strengthening the game, contrary to the opinion of many.
Wanting to see more than Tiger at a PGA Tour event does not automatically mean you’re a Tiger-hater. It may not be right away, but not far down the road, the tour is eventually going to have to grasp the concept of life without Tiger and count on others as marquee names.
Similarly, wanting to see the game grow does not mean you want to change the game. It only means that you want to see it prosper and have golf professionals and other employees keep their jobs.
Eventually, golf operations, like the tour with Tiger, are going to have to deal with the fact that today’s core golfers are not always going to be there and new demographics and age groups are going to have to replace them on the fairways and greens.
Preparing for the inevitable in both cases is only being prudent. There’s really no need to put a protective shield around the game the way his defenders do with Tiger.