Why is Tiger Woods so Popular?
Granted, he’s probably one of the best golfers to ever play the game and he is in the contemporary timeframe. But other golfers are just as good. Why so much about him?
He generates enthusiasm, electricity! About Golf!!!
If he enters a tournament, ticket sales skyrocket. One sold out within two days after he announced that he would play.
First, golf’s stereotype: It’s a rich man’s game. Stodgy. At one time, the players even wore suits.
Golf’s underlying rationale:
a game of ultimate individualism and personal responsibility.
You do everything yourself. There is no teammate. By rule, you can only get advice from your caddy.
You are expected to call penalties on yourself. Officials exist solely to interpret the rules, if asked.
If you make a mistake, you are disqualified (thrown out of the game in other sports).
There is no guaranteed salary. You don’t get paid if you don’t make the cut and play on Saturday.
I started watching golf on TV about 60 years ago during the era of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Others came along later, like Tom Weiskopf and Charlie Sifford. It pretty much lived up to the stereotype.
Networks televise golf because the viewers have the highest average income of any show on TV. Notice the Rolex advertisements if you watch The Masters this weekend.
Tiger Woods changed the character of golf.
He makes a putt — HE gets really excited! It’s infectious! The crowd joins in. He has pulled the game, kicking and screaming — well, limp and moaning, out of the stodgy class.
Newspapers take advantage of his name. He lurks, roars, pounces. Even the headlines are fun.
People who never watched golf in their life started when he became a professional. He did not disappoint them, starting in 1996.
Tim Dahlberg was covering the tournament for the Associated Press. He also remembered the crowds. (1996 Las Vegas Invitational).
“I had covered it the first few years, and it was a sleepy event,” said Dahlberg, who is now AP’s national columnist. “But Tiger energized it. When he got into contention over the weekend, the crowds were unbelievable. Not only were they big, they were excited. It wasn’t your typical golf crowd.”
Spectators ran to get a good position for his next shot, even before his playing partner hit his shot. Very impolite.
Most people probably don’t remember single plays in any sport years after they happened. I only remember two golf shots from the last 60 years. Both by Tiger Woods.
- Tom Lehman and Tiger Woods were tied after 54 holes when the 1997 Mercedes Championship was cancelled due to rain. Only one hole was available for the playoff — a par 3 next to a lake with the tee on top of a hill. Lehman put his ball into the water. The announcers said that Woods only needed to hit his shot into the center of the green and two-putt to win. He hit it within 8 inches of the hole.
- I was about 5 feet from his ball at the Houston Open. I could barely see the green through the trees. I thought his option was to hit the ball sideways to the fairway. He hit the ball through the trees onto the green. I went back to look. There was a hole between the leaves about 6 inches square. He hit the ball through that hole.
He made a similar shot out of a pine forest yesterday at The Masters.
Finally, he is in “comeback” mode from an injury that would have sidelined most golfers. That makes him sort of an underdog. I am impressed that he can still play, let alone be competitive.
People root for the underdog
Tiger Woods is always in the spotlight. I hope that he does well, but he has to do it himself. The crowd will be wild whenever he does.