Is Tiger Bigger Than the Game

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2009, 5:00 pm
After a long, eight-month layoff, Tiger Woods is finally back to action at this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. And with all the hoopla surrounding his return, one might wonder: Is Tiger bigger than the game? senior writer Rex Hoggard and editorial director Jay Coffin weigh in with differing opinions.

Senior Writer,
Editorial Director,

MARANA, Ariz. ' When you cast a shadow that fills every cactus-infested inch of the Oro Valley, youre bigger than the game. When your primary competition is ghosts and history books, youre bigger than the game. When you end eight months of surgical second-guessing with a pre-dawn paparazzi feeding frenzy, youre bigger than the game.
Traditionalists will howl that no one, not Tiger Woods nor the immortals who grabbed headlines before the skinny kid from Cypress started hitting 1-irons from his highchair, is bigger than the game. But pop culture demands an urgency of now.
The media zoo that gathered before sunrise in the Arizona desert on Tuesday didnt brave the chill for Joe the Plummer. No, the media masses awoke before dawn to see Mighty Joe One-Putt and his multi-million dollar knee.
To pinch a line from our favorite blue-collar comedian: You might be bigger than the game if youve played one tournament in 10 months and are still the pre-championship betting favorite. At a match play meet-and-greet no less, the most capricious of the games we play.
But then weve seen this cycle before. Jack Nicklaus powered his way to sporting Olympus with a steely glare and a pair of tree-trunks for legs. Arnold Palmer charmed and swashbuckled his way into sporting immortality. In 1927, Babe Ruth hit more home runs then the rest of his Yankee teammates combined, twice as many as any other major league player and for a snapshot in time he was bigger than baseball. Michael Jordan dwarfed all in the NBA, even Manute Bol, until he traded his basketball in for a smaller orb.
But records fade and we come to cherish the opportunity to witness greatness in its prime. We hold farewell tours and add wings to halls of fame. Finally, when the dust settles and hyperbole ebbs the game moves on. As offensive as the concept may be to some, Tiger Woods star, not his legacy, will fade, probably sometime after he pockets Grand Slam No. 20something.
Yet Tuesdays madness aside, there will come a day in our lifetimes that Woods resume will be weighed objectively through the prism of time, and in the rear-view mirror of hindsight objects are always smaller than they originally appeared. Woods body of work will be unquestionably great, probably the greatest ever, but it will always be one chapter in a book that does not end.
Its inevitable, like a failed Chicago Cubs pennant chase and middle seats on airplanes. Greatness of this magnitude comes with a shelf life, and history provides the ultimate filter. Twenty years from now Woods will still be great, but will he be considered bigger than the game?
Of course, the only person truly qualified to judge Woods place in, or above, the game would never entertain the thought. Woods leaves that type of out-of-the-moment thinking to others, those competitive blinders being the ultimate shroud to the big picture.
Just because people are writing about you and talking about you, as my dad always said, thats never hit you a high draw, a low fade or holed a putt, Woods said.
As the sun inched over the mountains early Tuesday, Phil Mickelson, a man that knows a thing or two about legacies, walked onto a strangely crowded practice range and allowed a Hallmark offering. Hes coming, Lefty smiled. He was talking, of course, about Woods. Given the heady happenings at Dove Mountain, Mickelson may have just as easily been referring to the march of time and the perspective that brings.

MARANA, Ariz. ' Never saw Babe Ruth or Muhammad Ali in their prime but Tiger Woods has to be the closest thing weve ever seen to an athlete being bigger than his sport.
The guy not only moves the needle, he is the needle. There are other players in the game, but right now he is the game.
Take Tuesday morning at Dove Mountain at 6 a.m. when more than 100 reporters and photogs from around the world were on the practice range waiting for Woods. All waiting to see the main attraction hit his first shot, Phil Mickelson walked on the range first and announced, hes coming.
Afterward, Mickelson said, Its pretty evident to see what he has done for the game of golf. I came here on a Tuesday practice round and as Im walking to the range Ive never seen so many cameras and photographers and so forth, especially that early in the morning waiting for Tiger to get here.
Its amazing to me what he has done for our sport, and for us to have the most recognizable athlete in the world playing our sport is so fortunate for all of us.
Now, Mickelson wasnt saying that Woods is bigger than the game but he certainly recognizes how much he benefits from Woods being on the scene.
The media often gets blamed for turning Woods into this bigger-than-life figure. There may be some responsibility there but the bottom line is that the media wouldnt chase the man like it does if he didnt move the needle. When we write about him, people read. When we talk about him, people listen. When hes not at an event, we still talk about him and people still listen.
Those saying Woods isnt bigger than the game will point to the excitement of the Ryder Cup last year, which was one of the most exciting matches in recent history, all without Woods. Those same people will mention how well television ratings did for last weeks Northern Trust Open with Mickelson in the hunt. Ill accept those and counter with the British Open, PGA Championship, FedEx Cup and most everything else that has happened in the game over the past eight months.
The biggest reason for Woods popularity is his sheer dominance, which is accentuated much more in an individual sport than it is in a team sport.
Team sports are different. Contrary to popular belief, no one person can win a game for a team. Michael Jordan needed Bill Cartwright, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman; Kobe Bryant needed Shaquille ONeal. Thus, a team player wont ever be bigger than his respective sport.
Woods needs nobody. Hes a one-man wrecking crew that has mowed over anything that has ever got in his way.
Woods is without question the most influential athlete in his sport today. But, is he bigger than the game?
An argument certainly can be made.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Tiger's Return
  • Match Play Bracket
  • Match Play Bracket Challenge
  • Full Coverage ' WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Woods' wife gives birth to son Charlie Axel
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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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    Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

    Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

    ''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

    It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    ''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

    Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

    ''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

    After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

    ''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

    He's making his first start in the event.

    ''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

    Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

    ''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

    Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

    ''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

    The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

    ''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

    Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

    ''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

    Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

    John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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    Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

    He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

    How rare is his missing the cut there?

    The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

    The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

    Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

    Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.