Recent statements by Tiger Woods and those close to him are not promising. Reading between the lines, an article I wrote a short time ago has apparently been confirmed. Tiger does not have a physical problem; he could still be the number one golfer in the world; he just doesn’t want to focus all of his attention on the game. He shares custody of his children and has expressed a desire to spend more time with them while they are young. Golf does not appear to be a priority. If the PGA loses Tiger, who will emerge as THE star? There doesn’t appear to be one golfer who stands out above the rest.
Three years ago the new symbol of the PGA appeared to be Rory McIlroy. Although he is ranked as the number one golfer in the world, he didn’t make the cut Friday at the Honda Classic.
Several other names are known to fans including Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, and Dustin Johnson. But none of these can be called a ‘brand name.’ PGA board members may not like the idea of the fans’ focus on one player, but this is the 21st century. The PGA and all golfers benefit from fan attendance and television revenues, and that doesn’t happen without a ‘star.’
Examples of the importance of a name associated with a single sport are many. When Michael Jordan was playing in the NBA, ratings soared when the Bulls were televised; today it’s LeBron James. Stars of the NFL and MLB are many, but each year fans follow a few closely. Tennis has four men who are closely watched by fans; Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Rafael Nadal. The women have Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Truth be told, the PGA is far better when the winners are numerous, and no one clearly stands above the rest; but television ratings don’t see it that way.
Here are the top four leaders in the Honda Classic going into the weekend, and I doubt that most sports fans have ever heard their names. They are: Brendan Steele, Patrick Reed, Jim Herman, and Luke Donald.
For over a decade the PGA had the advantage of having two fan favorites who were playing at the top of their game; Tiger and Phil Mickelson. With age obviously affecting Mickelson, and uncertainty over the future of Tiger, the world of golf is scrambling to secure its fan base.
Jordan Spieth appeared to be a contender for super stardom in the past two seasons. At barely 21 years of age, he has displayed all the tools to make him stand above the rest. However, he has only won a single PGA event. He is ranked ninth in the world. He will be playing next week in the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Rory will be there as well. Fans will see if the weather was the culprit for McIlroy’s poor scores at the Honda Classic; to be fair, there were two rain delays on Friday and gusting winds.
If Tiger choses to be competitive once again, he will win tournaments, but I doubt if he has the mental focus to win another major. What Yogi Berra said about baseball applies to professional golf: “Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical.”
By James Turnage