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By Stephen McKay
Sports Writer 

Talking Sports: Tiger at the Masters still worth watching


I saw an article online recently indicating that Tiger Woods had fallen off the world’s Top 100 golfers list for the first time since 1996. Considering his amazing and rapid rise to the top – and subsequent domination of the PGA Tour – I find that pretty astounding.

There have been a lot of articles written about Woods lately. But that’s always been the case – especially whenever a major rolls around. It’s even more so at Masters time – a championship he has won four times.

Though Woods owns four green jackets, he hasn’t been so fitted for one in nine years.

That’s right. Tiger Woods has not won a Masters since he was 29-years-old. He hasn’t finished ahead of the pack at any major since he was 34 – the 2008 U.S. Open.

Of course, he is still only 39. For any other touring professional none of that would seem especially alarming. After all, it’s hard to beat the world’s best players at the tournaments at which they make every effort to be in peak form.

But Woods has never been just another touring professional. So his precipitous fall from the top has taken many by surprise. I came late to the Woods camp. I grew up in the era of Jack Nicklaus. He was my golfing idol as a kid. No way, I thought in the late 1990s, would Tiger ever surpass the records of Jack.

I can’t remember exactly when I came around, but it must have become pretty clear after Tiger won four straight majors from the 2000 U.S. Open to the 2001 Masters that he would likely vanquish every record Nicklaus ever even dreamed about. And then came his personal problems.

You remember that well-documented incident that led to his divorce from his now ex-wife. I don’t even remember much of it. What was it again? His then-wife was trying to run him over or something in his driveway? It was a Bill Clinton-type story where sordid details soon began emerging from his personal life.

Tell you the truth, I don’t care about the personal life of public figures. The tabloids and magazines that make millions by feeding the public with the intimate details on the private lives of famous Americans have never made a dime off of me. But that incident does seem to be the point at which Tiger ceased to be Tiger, and for that reason it’s relevant to his public career.

That was the demarcation line when Tiger Woods ceased to be the “God of Golf” and became just another fella. Quick as a flash, he went from being a God to a “cad.” I don’t know that calling Woods a cad is quite fair. But the point at which Tiger stopped being Superman and started being just another guy on the tour seems undeniably clear.

Of course, that’s just when Tiger ceased to be the world’s greatest golfer. But he is still the golfing world’s biggest draw. Even if you tune in just to root against him, people continue to tune in by the millions to watch him play. There was some question as to whether he would play at the 2015 Masters, but now it seems he will tee it up in Augusta for the first time since the 2013 championship.

And the Masters wants Tiger Woods very badly – especially the ESPN and CBS television networks. The CBS coverage of last year’s Tigerless Masters were the lowest since 1957. So not since Doug Ford defeated Sam Snead has the viewing public thought so little of a Masters telecast.

Though Woods has not worn the green since ‘05, he has been competitive in nearly every Masters since. In his last eight Masters, he has finished in the top four on six occasions. He finished in a tie for sixth and 40th in the other two. That means, Tiger was relevant on the back nine on Sunday. For the networks, that translates into ratings that translates into dollars.

The dollars don’t just come to the networks. They come to the players in the form of higher purses, more exposure and bigger endorsement deals. Whether Tiger wins or not, very few – especially those with a financial stake – want to see Woods miss the Masters – or any other PGA tournament for that matter.

So, now I’m with the networks also. I want Tiger to play too. I’ll be rooting against him of course – or rather I’ll be rooting for the preservation of Jack’s preeminence. I’m just like all those Arnold Palmer fans who rooted against Jack Nicklaus when his brilliance threatened to minimize the greatness of The King.

So play well Golden Bear – even though you’re not playing.


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