As I spent my Easter holiday watching the very exciting final round of the Masters, I couldn’t help but recognize the enormous impact that Tiger Woods has not only on the game of golf, but also on his main competition on the Tour.
Tiger Woods certainly puts fear in the hearts and minds of his fellow golfers. The man that will come to be known as the greatest golfer that ever lived certainly is an intimidating figure on the course. Ernie Els has even admitted that in this past, his golf game has suffered tremendously because of his constant obsession with Tiger’s place on the leaderboard.
However, as I sat glued to my TV, watching Angel Cabrera beat out Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell, it was evident that Tiger has a positive effect on his competition as well.
Sunday was a dream scenario for CBS. Since both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson started the day at -4, they were paired together for only the 2nd time in their careers at the Masters. The number 1 and number 2 golfers in the world both made a final round charge, and at one point on the back 9, both players were -10 and 2 shots off the lead. Both the crowd following the players at Augusta, as well as the viewers tuning into CBS, no doubt were more interested in Tiger, and to a lesser extent Phil, making a late run for the Green Jacket, than they were for the final pairing of Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry.
Tiger and Phil kept fans of golf at the edge of their seat for the majority of Sunday afternoon. Only after falling apart on 17 and 18 did it become obvious that Tiger Woods would not have a chance to win this year’s Masters Championship. However, after investing so much time watching the final round, I, like many others across the world, stayed tuned to watch the conclusion, which saw Angel Cabrera, Kenny Perry, and Chad Campbell battle it out in a 3 way playoff, and ultimately, Angel Cabrera win his first Green Jacket.
If Tiger had missed the cut in this tournament, or had not participated in it, much like the British Open and PGA Championship last season, these golf fans would not have been tuned in to see the end. However, simply the fact that Tiger was in the hunt on a Sunday caused people to tune in. Because of this, much of the world was introduced to the final three golfers that battled it out for the Green Jacket.
Today, average golf fans can put a face to Angel Cabrera, Chad Campbell, and Kenny Perry. It is likely that Kenny Perry, for example, will have the largest following of his life watching him in this summer’s US Open; all as a result of people tuning in to watch Tiger.
Many casual golf fans could not even tell you who won the final 2 majors of 2008, as no Tiger often means no interest.
Who would know Chris DiMarco if not for his epic battle with Tiger Woods at the 2005 Masters? If Chris had battled with, say, Vijay Singh, and Tiger was nowhere to be found on the leaderboard, Chris would be not be nearly as popular as he is today.
How about Rocco Mediate; the man that captured the hearts of golf fans across the country, as he took, you guessed it, Tiger Woods, to the brink in last year’s US Open. Would anyone give Rocco a second thought if it wasn’t for that magical weekend in Torrey Pines? Yes, Rocco may have won that tournament if not for Tiger. But if not for Tiger, Rocco would never have experienced as much attention and publicity as he has since the 2008 US Open.
Popularity breeds an audience. Audience fuels much of what goes on inside the inner circles of golf. Attention and publicity, for many golfers, means an increase in endorsements, as well as sponsorships, which can only be positives for many golfers who struggle to keep up in the star-heavy, or should I say Tiger-heavy, world of the PGA Tour.
Tiger Woods may take some wins away from many players on the tour, but for golfers such as Angel Cabrera, Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell, Chris DiMarco, and Rocco Mediate, the recognition that they receive as a direct result of Tiger Woods is certainly something for them to appreciate and to capitalize on.