The days of Tiger Woods dominating golf may be behind us. This week the British Open bestows on him yet another opportunity to challenge for a major championship. With many young and talented players emerging through the ranks, does golf still need the 14-time major winner to keep the attraction of the sport as prevalent as it has been during his years of remarkable success?
The first question that needs answering is, where is he now?
The Tiger Woods of 2014 finds himself in a similar situation to 2011, currently outside of the Fed Ex ranking places which would allow him an automatic place in the Ryder Cup team. In 2013, however, he was pushing as hard as he had since the prodigious amount of allegations regarding his scandalous behaviour in 2009. In 2013 he was not only awarded PGA Tour player of the year, but also topped the charts for the leading money on the back of winning various tournaments including The Players Championship. However, and without a shadow of a doubt the most important absence in his success was that of a major tournament victory. He has regained his number one status (March 25 2013- May 2014), won highly coveted and competitive golf tournaments and has shown aspects of the golfer that was. If he wants to truly bring back his appeal, for many a major championship is simply a requirement for them to acknowledge he has officially ‘comeback’.
The next question would therefore be, does he have the quality to regain the form necessary to win a Major Championship?
This is he hardest question to answer. There is a significant difference between the form that took him back to number one and the form it takes to win a major. The atmosphere surrounding Tiger is entirely different entering the Masters, the US Open or the British Open like he will this week. Low key and Tiger Woods rarely fit into a sentence together, but it would be fair to say at events like the Farmer’s Insurance Open where he was victorious, the pressure is a little less, translating perhaps into better golf by the American. He has come close in majors since his last victory at the US Open in 2008, closest in 2009 when he came 2nd in the USA PGA. His finishes, however, have been inconsistent if not a little sporadic for someone of Tiger’s quality, finding himself outside of the top 20 as opposed to inside it far more often than he’d like. For someone who won 14 of his first 46 major tournaments, consistency is key and something he will need to improve upon if he wants to get back to his best. Injuries have played their part in stagnating his rehabilitation too, he now should be ready to but in a convincing performance a the British Open this week, but winning The Open though? For many this might be a step too far, but you should never rule Tiger Woods out.
Most importantly then, WHY does golf need Tiger Woods?
There are many reasons why Golf needs him. It is difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is that makes him so important to golf. Is it the way on a Sunday at Augusta in his trademark red shirt he has produced countless magical moments? The fact he could have and perhaps still could be the greatest golfer ever? Or is it a more sentimental reason, perhaps that he inspired a new generation of golf fans, making the sport more accessible for those who found no inspiration to play previously. Regardless of what makes him click, the sport may not need Tiger Woods, but without him the world of golf is certainly a less exciting place. Let’s hope Tiger is right when he says he’s ‘pretty darn close’ to being where he needs to be to challenge at Hoylake in the British Open this week. If he is right, the sport will indubitably be rejuvenated by the return of such a great player.
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