He’s Baaaack!: Woods resurrect the world of golf

tiger_woods_swingMardi Gras is over, and Tiger Woods is back.  A new commercial shows professional golfers embracing the flash of cameras, increased winnings, and a general jocular good time.  In the middle of one of their locker room joke sessions, Tiger Woods suddenly walks in the locker room and immediately all of the good times stop rolling (Lassiez Les Bons Temps Rouler…no mas).

That just may be the most precise commercial ever, at capturing the essence of a moment.  Seeing Tiger Woods come back from injury must have been similar to dropping an ice cream cone on the playground for the other professional golfers; they’re still going to eat it, but it just ain’t going to be the same.

Tiger Woods has been on hiatus since June 2008 due to surgery on his left knee and a stress fracture in his left tibia.  One of Tiger’s major competitive advantages is that he is (it seems) the first person to approach golf as a true athlete.  In golf you see skinny guys and fat guys, but until Tiger Woods came along you never seemed to see any muscles.  Golf takes skill indeed, but Tiger is the only one that looks like he could play another more physical type of sport as well.  The other golfers look like their other sporting options are bowling, equestrian (a lot of golfers are tiny fellows like jockeys), cricket, or that nasty competitive eating thing.  You don’t see too many knee injuries in golf, so the fact that he injured his knee is a testament to the athleticism that Tiger Woods applies to the sport of golf.

Recently, Tiger played his first comeback event in the WGC Match Play Tournament.  The bad news for the other golfers is that Tiger’s level of play has not dropped off from the blazing pace that he set prior to his surgery.  Tiger won the last tournament before his surgery, and it was one of those fairytale performances involving wincing, grimacing, folding over in pain, and simultaneously winning the most difficult golf tournament known to man, the U.S. Open.

So now Tiger is back.  He says that he feels better than ever (I would expect him to say that to scare the fat and skinny guys).  During his break Tiger also had his second child, a boy named Charlie.  And the aspect that I think may be most profound is that Tiger simply had the time off to be able to reflect on how he could get better.

It is really interesting to watch how Tiger Woods affects the other players on the PGA (Professional Golfers Association) Tour.  Golf was much more of a “good ole boys club” before Tiger came on the scene in 1996.  There was much more of a feeling of cigars, scotch liquor, and inappropriate flirting with cocktail waitresses before Tiger.  There were a handful of great players such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Watson, and everyone else was happy just to hang out, clean up the scraps, and take a nice check home…while thoroughly enjoying cigars, wine and women.  Then this young whipper-snapper steps on the scene whoopin’ their butts and looking like he wants to actually workout and stuff.  The wealth of camera flashes, winning paychecks, sponsorship dollars, and world adoration all of a sudden was focused on one buff and relatively handsome black kid (with a mix of Asian, Indian, and Caucasian).

Tiger Woods transformed a sport like no other player in any other sport ever has in my opinion, and probably many others.  For a brief moment the players on the PGA Tour had a blast from the past, of a golf world without the weekly specter of Tiger Woods making them look like somewhat average golf hackers.

While the other golfers might be disappointed, the television producers are doing the moonwalk.  I, like many, had not watched a stitch of golf until Tiger came back.  So now that the golf recession is over, perhaps we can hope that the Tiger Woods of politics can stimulate a similar comeback on Wall Street.  I’m not one to doubt those Tiger Wood’s types.

March 6, 2009
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