Column: Time to break addiction to Tiger Woods’ show
Golf as we know it had his caddie pick up his coin off the 12th green Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open.
When Tiger Woods rode off the course in a golf cart mid-round, loaded his clubs into the trunk of his car and drove off, PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem should have hung a sign at the entrance gate:
“A new generation has arrived. Please start paying attention to it.”
Woods has carried golf on his back for nearly two decades. Now, that back (shoulder, knee, glutes) can barely carry a fat putter.
Even though it is as hard to type these words as it is to stomach their reality, Woods is done.
That isn’t the main issue here. We’ve known that.
When you pull out of three tournaments in your last eight starts and your best finish since last year’s Farmers is a tie for 17th, that’s a trend. When you haven’t won a major since you limped to one on this same course in the 2008 U.S. Open, that’s a trend. When you are 39 and your body is falling apart, it’s time to start thinking about your memoirs, toning down your investment risks and easing into the Champions Tour.
The issue now is us, the sports fans and media.
There are a million stories in the naked city and an equal number on the PGA Tour. But we can’t, and don’t, tell them because we allow ourselves to stay in the Tiger trap. It’s not his fault, although he doesn’t discourage the attention.
He could help himself and the tour with one statement along the lines of: “Look guys. Everything hurts. My swing is a mess. I’m closing in on 40 and the pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major titles looks closer to a pipe dream than a real dream right now.”
If he ever did that, if he could dump the stubborn arrogance and the strange medical analysis, it would be so much easier to have empathy. It would also take some of the pressure off him.
But that’s not Woods. That won’t happen. His style is to see all personal golf glasses as half full. It is part of what made him one of the best players ever, and part of the denial that makes his decline so tough to watch and hard to deal with.
He is still convinced that he will be putting on another green jacket at Augusta one of these years. That’s fine, but we don’t need to keep buying it.
At every setback, every injury, every missed cut and flailed drive, we hear the same thing — from the media and from other players: “Yes, but he is still Tiger Woods.”
No he’s not.
A spectator in the gallery here Friday may have summed it up best. Fahd Ismail of Boise, Idaho, and originally from Tasmania, is 37 and a golf fan. He said, “Our generation can’t let it go, because we are too attached to him. We grew up with him. For so long, we had Michael Jordan and Tiger.”
Indeed, who can forget Woods’ 15-stroke dominance at Pebble Beach in 2000, or that he won the British Open at Hoylake in ’06 while using a driver only once, or that chip shot at the ’05 Masters that rolled and rolled and took its last dive into the cup with the Nike logo face up.
But, in the spirit of two of the great cliches of our time, we should move on, put him behind us. The media that seems to know the name of one golfer, and only one, should learn about some new ones.
Regular golf fans get it. They appreciate the other guys. General sports fans seem to care only about Tiger.
That’s their prerogative and would not be an issue if today’s media spent more time focused on what the public needs instead of what it wants. Journalism is supposed to go deeper than merely feeding the cattle.
Billy Horschel was in the Woods’ threesome Thursday. He spent time with him on the driving range the day before, appearing as if he were trying to help him with his currently disastrous short game.
During the round Thursday, when Woods tried to gut out his glute pain, Horschel picked up Woods’ tees and even did the bending to get his ball out of the cup.
Afterward, he praised Woods as “a fighter.”
He also described the scene of Tiger’s departure — hordes of reporters and cameras scurrying in pursuit. Horschel spoke somewhat in jest and somewhat not. His words went to the heart of the current issue.
“We went from 600-700 people watching us to 50,” he said. “So we became chopped liver. We analyzed where we stand in the game of golf, and had a good joke about it … Just because I won the FedEx Cup, they still don’t know who I am.”
Woods has become a version of Golf’s Catch-22. He is the new Yossarian.
To grow, the sport needs stars. It needs to shine the brightest lights on the next group, on Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas. Instead, the bright lights remain on a fading star.
Time to start practicing what we preach.
Saturday and Sunday, we will write again from here. There will be other drama, some near misses, great performances. There will be a winner.
Tiger Woods’ name will not appear.
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