It’s been clear since Tiger Woods burst onto the golf scene in 1996 the PGA Tour has revolved around his every move. If Tiger is in contention for a win on Sunday, ratings go up and golf fans are pleased. Yet, the Tour has had to deal with the fact Tiger is only playing sparingly in 2010 and has yet to return to major championship level form. To call this bad for the PGA is short-sighted. Where Tiger is absent, others have accepted the spotlight and shined brightly under it.
Phil Mickelson battled through an emotional three rounds to win the Masters in April while feeling the effects of a tough year in which his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer. Many wanted Tiger to come back and win his first tournament at Augusta, but Mickelson’s story and golf game quickly trumped that subplot.
A week later, young phenom Rory Mcllroy won going away with a course record 62 at the Quail Hollow Championships. Tiger wasn’t present, but McElroy won his first tournament days before his 21st birthday. Say the future of golf lies solely on Tiger and you’re missing the point.
The storylines have been present in golf beyond Tiger years – he just swallowed them up with his big swing, big smile, and dominating golf game. Look past Tiger and you’ll find there are great stories everywhere on the PGA Tour. Don’t believe me? Go pick up a John Feinstein book about golf and see how many interesting stories there are about Tiger in there. You’ll be surprised.
All of that leads us into the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, OH over the weekend. Yes, Tiger has qualified. Many other big-name players will as well, including Mickelson. But taking a glance at the in-progress leader board at 2pm Central made the weekend rounds seem even more appealing. Guys like Rickie Fowler, Rory Sabatini, KJ Choi, Kenny Perry and many more sit inside the Top 20.
You can love watching Tiger play golf, I do too. But in not paying attention simply because he has not been in some tournaments is a shame. There is so much quality golf being played, it may have been in the Tour’s best interest to have had Tiger out for a short time. It’s not quite as interesting without him, but it’s opened the door for some fresh faces to prove they belong.
That being said, it’s business as usual for the last 2 rounds. Tiger will be on the prowl (no pun intended), and we’ll be watching. Just don’t be surprised if another storyline keeps you watching along the way.