By Tyler Olson
It’s a familiar cycle by now. Tiger Woods comes back to play on the PGA Tour. The media covers it like it’s the second (or third, or fourth) coming of Christ. Tiger plays golf that ranges somewhere between mediocre and sad. He goes on another extended break.
We saw a clear example of this media fiasco in just the past couple months.
When Woods returned to competitive golf for the first time since August 2015 at the Hero World Challenge, he birdied four of his first eight holes. Golf Twitter and golf media basically exploded. I, your humble writer and tweeter, was just as guilty as anyone. I looked back through our @mygogi TweetDeck and for the entire four days of the Hero World Challenge. Exactly one of the tweets from my fellow intern Melynda and me didn’t mention Tiger; it was quoting a tweet from Dustin Johnson. That’s positively staggering over four whole days. In fact, I’m guilty of writing about Tiger right now and he’s not even playing.
Hideki Matsuyama was in the middle of winning his fourth tournament out of five in a field that Tiger himself ensured would be composed of nothing but the best of the best golfers in the world, but we only mentioned Matsuyama or anyone else in passing.
Things didn’t get much better when Woods headed to Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open. While we at Golf Swagger spread our coverage around much better, the media was in a predictable wall to wall frenzy around Tiger in his first full-field event back. Until he missed the cut.
Oh, so did his playing partners, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, who were placed with Woods to gin up media hype. I’m not saying their missing the cut was a result of having to watch Tiger’s bad golf, but I’m not not saying it either.
He’s now cancelled scheduled appearances at Genesis Open and the Honda Classic this month to let his back heal up.
This was Tiger’s umpteenth “comeback” and it had the same result as all the others: mediocre golf and more injuries. This is the new normal. This is the new Tiger. This is what people need to come to expect from him until he proves that he can do anything else. The media needs to change its focus from the whatever and whenever the next Tiger comeback is to the actual incredible golf that’s occurring on the PGA Tour.
The real losers in the media’s Woods obsession are the great young players on the PGA Tour who aren’t getting the coverage they deserve. We’ve already covered the injustice we at Golf Swagger and the rest of the media gave to Matsuyama at the Hero World Challenge, but what about Justin Thomas, who’s finally escaping the “Jordan Spieth’s old friend” shadow that’s hovered over him for years and getting known for his own great golf? What about John Rahm and Hudson Swafford picking up their first ever PGA Tour wins? What about the fact the average age of the first six winners in the 2017 calendar year is TWENTY-FOUR (s/o Kyle Porter of CBS for that stat).
Assuming Tiger makes it back for the Masters, the worst-case scenario is that a really important storyline like Spieth overcoming his demons from last year or Matsuyama continuing his hot streak or Sergio winning his first major (I mean, Trump is president, anything can happen) could be overshadowed. And all by some poor to mediocre golf from someone who used to be relevant on the PGA Tour.
To be clear, this isn’t a Tiger hate piece. I’m mourning along with everyone else that we no longer get to watch one of the game’s greats on TV every week. Tiger still has a future in golf as a Ryder cup captain and on the Champions Tour if he can get healthy. But let’s not let our nostalgia over one of golf’s great’s ruin our enjoyment of the gaggle of great golfers on tour today, many of whom are only pro golfers because Woods inspired them as kids.
For analysis on Tiger and more, follow the “Golf Swagger Podcast” on SoundCloud. Listen to the most recent episode of the podcast here>> https://soundcloud.com/user-14865852/golf-swagger-podcast-episode-2
Tyler Olson is a blogging and social media intern for the Game of Golf Institute. He is a freshman at Penn State University majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. Tyler enjoys telling stories about his glory days as a high school golf phenom (that is debatable) and sneaking on his local golf courses after dark and hitting range balls because #TheGrindNeverStops. Follow him on Twitter @TylerOlson1791 and the Game of Golf Institute’s official account @mygogi.