You can’t really say that Tiger Wood burst onto the scene in 1996 because that would indicate he was in obscurity prior to that.
He had already won three consecutive U.S. Junior championships and three consecutive U.S Amateur titles, a run that saw several records fall in its wake.
His unbelievable accomplishments began through a series of sponsor exemptions on the PGA Tour one of which was the Canadian Open, winning his seventh event as a professional in Las Vegas.
Since then, he has become one of the wealthiest athletes of all time worldwide and one of the most dominant competitors in any sport.
Sadly, we are beginning to see cracks of light appearing in his once invincible armor. He turns 40 on December 30, an age enhanced by experience, but a slow erosion of physical skills is inevitable.
During Tiger’s almost 20-year influence on what was a sort of sleepy kind of sport, changes came, some welcomed and some not.
Tiger was responsible for a few and the beneficiary of the new straight flying, explosive golf balls, and greatly improved drivers.
The pairing of Tiger and technology changed the face of golf forever. Courses have become obsolete to top players due to lack of length and even Augusta National attempted to “Tiger-proof” its design.
Mind you, it might have worked because Tiger never won there again but there are certainly other factors that came into the equation, including several injuries.
An extensive weight training program helped Tiger develop a massive, muscled physique that competitors both in golf and other sports saw as contributing to his vast successes. The result is that every athlete, especially golfers, follows some kind of exercise regimen.
They have also emulated his intense desire to win. Tiger’s emotional displays following important putts being holed have led to many others doing the same and his penchant for red shirts on Sunday has made round four on the PGA Tour look like team uniform day.
On the industry/business side, it was predicted that Tiger would open doors to minorities taking up the game, a huge growth in juniors and a general overall enthusiasm that would motivate new players to try golf as a past-time.
Coinciding with Tiger’s arrival, developers realized they could profit handsomely by building new courses within a subdivision. New courses were built in anticipation of the retiring baby boomers playing more golf as they aged and having significant disposable income whether through investments in the tech stock years or inheritance.
Almost without exception, the new courses were built with monstrous budgets followed by monstrous, unaffordable green fees.
Equipment manufacturers entered a race of technological developments that required higher pricing and the ensuing result has been 20 years of people entering the game and leaving shortly after, disillusioned by time commitment required to play, stodgy rules and/or costs.
Any conceived benefit from Tiger failed to materialize.
So what is the much talked about “Tiger Effect?” When is it coming or is it?
Perhaps it did and we didn’t know it?
People within the business of education know that changes to the manner in which information is delivered to children cannot realistically be measured for about 50 years.
In other words, it takes the lifetime of the child before one can determine the effect the changes had on the experiences of a person. The “Tiger Effect” will be the same. We will only know the real impact Tiger had on golf around 2040.
When Tiger came onto the stage in 1996, we knew he was coming, but we didn’t know his impact. We didn’t know how he would influence the market or how he would collide with golf’s traditions.
In fact, the world could see he was very different from any previous golf champion in the way he dominated, but truthfully, the whole show was already diminishing by 2008.
It took the general public almost five years of Tiger’s exploits to catch on to the fact that this guy was different. Six years, later his star value was declining. not nearly long enough to lead the masses out of their recliners and onto the course.
Don’t forget that during the same time frame, the world was innundated with video games, social media and many other self-engaging, cocooning activities.
So what will the Tiger legacy actually be?
From 1999 to 2005, people said that Tiger is so good the people who will beat him aren’t yet born. That prophecy turned out to be half correct. People born in 1990 were 10 years old when Tiger was on top.
They grew up in the era of the “new” golf balls and hot clubs, never knowing 260 was a long drive and a five iron flew 180.
They saw the work ethic required, the intense desire and the mental focus of Tiger. In 2015, those same young people are now in their 20s and we have Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and many others.
Development tours are full of inspired hopefuls.
It might not be that Tiger Woods attracted the masses into the game, but he most certainly created a competitive atmosphere that appeals to a large group of players who want to test their skills in tournaments.
At some point, the next round of fledgling underlings will blossom and will attract new players and then the next wave will come and continue to do so again and again.
Along the way, those who are following in Tiger’s footsteps as professional golfers will all be role models that attract attention to the game and add appeal that attracts new players.
It might take years before the “Tiger Effect” is known and maybe never, but some things are certain – youth love fist pumping, they all make their leg wave in the wind after a fine drive and so many wear red shirts on Sunday.