Tiger-less golf has an identity problem

By Ethan Moore, page editor.

The Master’s concluded this past weekend, and thanks to the wonderful storyline of the major-less Sergio Garcia, the product on the course was watchable and it ended up being a great final round. With that being said, lately it has been much harder to watch golf than in past years, and viewership for major golf tournaments is at some of its lowest numbers of all time. What is the biggest reason for this? The departure of everyone’s favorite golfer: Tiger Woods.

Woods’s fall from grace has been prolific and well documented. The problem now is that even though golf fans and people have gotten to a place where they have forgiven Woods for his transgressions, he cannot keep his body healthy enough to stay on the golf course. His back and knee issues are so debilitating that it is beginning to look unlikely that he will ever play again, let alone at a high enough level to win major championships.

What made Woods such a draw for even the most casual sports fan was how different he was from normal golfers. Tiger showed emotion and sometimes made controversial comments, he was one of the first golfers to successfully have a distinct personality, while also being a generational talent. There have been golfers who have shown television worthy personalities (see Daly, John), however most are unable to put together the consistent performances that Woods did during his prime. The intrigue of Tiger chasing Jack Nicklaus’s major record was another big draw for casual sports fans, but with no other golfer anywhere near that amount of major championships, it is hard to think that will be a factor in ratings for some time.

So, what is the sport of golf going to do? Sport-defining players do not just grow on trees, and either way it would be hard to replicate the success Tiger. Most avid golf fans seem to be convinced that Jordan Spieth is the heir apparent to Tiger’s legacy, and the kid is certainly talented enough to be the next Tiger. With three major championships to his name already, along with being consistently in the running to win championships on any given weekend, Spieth could be the answer that golf is looking for. The only drawback to Spieth is that, to be frank, he is a little boring. He seems really nice and he can show emotion on the course, but he lacks the sort of flair and charisma that is required of a poster boy for a sport. Golf has other players who may have more of the personalities that better suit superstardom, such as Rickie Fowler or Jason Day, however these players lack the consistency to compete week in and week out. Dustin Johnson is another to watch for to see if he may be the next big thing in golf. After winning his first major this past year, the world’s current number one golfer seems primed to show that he has staying power at the highest level.

Overall, the sport of golf is as fun to watch as it has ever been, but it is going to be increasingly hard to reach a younger audience if you do not have consistent stars to win your tournaments and dominate the sport. Spieth’s epic collapse at the Masters last year was riveting television, however having Danny Willett, a relative nobody, win the tournament is a punch in the gut to ratings and visibility moving forward. Golf needs Spieth or somebody to take the reins and start to pull away from the field.

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