Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tiger Woods doing golf a favor next week

These days Tiger Woods isn’t sneaking up on anybody. The last time we heard his footsteps, was the final round of the 2011 Masters where the 14-time major champion made things interesting before coming up four shots short of Charl Schwartzel. There will be no such footsteps at Royal St. George’s from the three-time Open Championship winner, but no one is surprised. As a matter of fact, Woods press conference this week at the AT&T National was good news. It was good because Tiger announced he won’t be playing in the British Open next week in order to let his injured left knee and Achilles tendon continue to heal. That’s right Tiger Woods using brains over competitive brawn for a change. Maybe Tiger is finally tired of not winning. He hasn’t picked up a victory in any tournament since the BMW Championship of 2009. Maybe he finally understands in order to win, he must be healthy, and his U.S. Open victory of 2008 on one leg was a once in a lifetime achievement.

No matter what the reasoning, in the long run this is good for the sport. Rory McEllroy had a Tiger-like performance at the U.S. Open last month for the first major victory of his young career. Sure it was a great feel good story, coming off the 20-year-olds Masters collapse which was as painful to watch hernia surgery without anesthesia. But the feel good story was an eye-sore for television ratings. Next week at the Open Championship unless Phil Mickelson and McEllroy decide to both perform at a high level rolling into Sunday’s final round, you can expect the same type of no-show from the casual golf fan.

Golf needs not only Tiger Woods but a healthy Tiger Woods. A healthy Woods can run away with a tournament, setting new records but the audience stays tuned in. When on his game mentally, Woods can intimidate opponents and make great runs on moving day, then show nerves of steal on Sunday. We’ve all seen it because when it takes place we all watch! Rory McEllroy coming onto the scene is good stuff but it doesn’t match the great television the Tiger-Show can be when he’s on his game. McEllroy needs a healthy Tiger to challenge and a healthy Tiger to test him and show he is the star of the future once Tiger’s reign is over. Imagine Tiger, McEllroy and Mickelson all tied on the back nine at Royal St. George’s on Sunday? Now that would be must-see golf! But we won’t get it, until Woods is completely healthy. Hopefully that will be soon, because otherwise the casual fan will continue to find other casual things to do on Sunday than watch golf.

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