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? GolfChannel.com senior writer Rex Hoggard and editorial director Jay Coffin weigh in with differing opinions.


By REX HOGGARD
Senior Writer, GolfChannel.com
By JAY COFFIN
Editorial Director, GolfChannel.com

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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    M. Jutanugarn finally joins sister in LPGA winner's circle

    By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 1:42 am

    LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn won the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open by two shots for her first victory in six years on the LPGA Tour, joining sister Ariya as the second siblings to win on the tour.

    The 23-year-old from Thailand shot a 3-under 68 for a 12-under 272 total Sunday at Wilshire Country Club in the tour's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

    Jutanugarn won in her 156th start after three career runner-up finishes, including at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. She had 21 top-10 finishes before winning.

    Seven-time winner Ariya tied for 24th after a 70. She joined the predominantly Asian crowd to follow her older sister's final holes, crying as Moriya two-putted to close out the win.

    Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to win on the LPGA Tour.

    Hall of Famer Inbee Park shot a 68 to tie for second with Jin Young Ko (70).

    Park had opportunities, but she wasn't able to put pressure on Jutanugarn playing in the final threesome. However, Park will return to No. 1 in the world when the rankings come out Monday, knocking off top-ranked Shenshen Fang, who tied for 12th.


    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


    Jutanugarn began the final round with a two-shot lead and never wavered in fulfilling the potential she first displayed as the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2013. After a birdie at the second hole, she reeled off nine consecutive pars before sinking birdie putts at 12 and 13.

    She overcame a tee shot that narrowly missed going out of bounds for another birdie at 15 to lead by three.

    Jutanugarn ran into trouble on the par-4 16th. Her approach landed on the green and rolled off it, stopping inches from dropping into a bunker. Her chip shot ran well past the hole and her par putt just missed catching the edge of the cup. That left her with a short putt for bogey, her first in her previous 28 holes, trimming her lead to two shots.

    Ko's tee shot on 18 landed about 4 feet from the hole, giving her a chance to cut Jutanugarn's lead to one shot with the Thai facing a long birdie attempt.

    But Ko missed, leaving Jutanugarn room to maneuver. Her birdie putt came up a couple feet short, but she calmly parred the hole to win. Ariya rushed onto the green and joined others in emptying water bottles on her sister before they embraced.

    So Yeon Ryu (68) finished fourth at 7 under. American Emma Talley (67) and Eun-Hee Ji (71) tied for fifth at 6 under, making Ji one of four South Koreans to place in the top five.

    Getty Images

    After Further Review: Tour players embracing new ideas

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 1:26 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On players embracing new ideas on the PGA Tour ...

    PGA Tour players are trying to tell commissioner Jay Monahan something: They like new.

    In the second year of the two-man team format at the Zurich Classic, 10 of the top 14 players in the world have signed up, including all four reigning major champions. It’s the first time all four have been in the same field since the Tour Championship. If the laid-back event offered world-ranking points – it doesn’t, and that’s part of the appeal – the winner would have received 62 points. That’s the same as the Genesis Open.

    Sure, some sponsor obligations are involved in boosting the field here, but there’s no other way to look at this: Today’s PGA Tour players are not only willing to play events that are a departure from the 72-hole, stroke-play norm. They’re encouraging it. - Ryan Lavner


    On Moriya Jutanugarn's breakthrough win ...

    As much love as there is between the Jutanugarn sisters, it couldn’t have been easy for Moriya, watching her baby sister, Ariya, soar past her as one of the LPGA’s dominant stars the last few years. Mo, though, never betrayed an inkling of frustration or envy.

    That’s what made Mo’s breakthrough LPGA victory Sunday at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open especially meaningful for everyone who has admired Mo’s devotion to her sister. Mo was always a fixture, waiting in the wings to celebrate whenever Ariya hoisted a trophy.

    So emotions were high late Sunday, with Ariya waiting in the wings this time, with Ariya sobbing in Mo’s arms after the victory was secured. It was heartwarming for more than Apple, the mother who raised these talented, loving sisters. As always, Apple was there, too, soaking both her daughters in tears of joy. – Randall Mell


    On the tough scheduling decisions facing the PGA Tour ...

    According to multiple sources, officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation on Monday.

    While this is good news for the folks in Fort Worth, Texas, who were in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of timing, there remain some tough decisions to be made in the next few weeks.

    If the PGA Tour’s plan is to end its season before Labor Day beginning in 2019, something must give. Currently, the Houston Open, a staple on Tour since 1946, and The National are without sponsors. When the music stops in a few weeks and the circuit announces the ’19 schedule, there’s a good chance one, or both, of those events will be the victims of bad timing. – Rex Hoggard

    Getty Images

    Triplett hole-out wins Legends of Golf playoff

    By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 12:12 am

    RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Kirk Triplett holed out from a bunker for birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf to lift himself and partner Paul Broadhurst past Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman.

    ''Well, you're trying to make it, but you know realistically it doesn't go in very often,'' Triplett said. ''You're trying to give your partner a free run at it. You don't want to hit it up there 20 feet past or do something silly. I'm just trying to hit it the right distance and get it on the right line.''

    Langer and Lehman took it in stride.

    ''You kind of learn to expect it,'' Lehman said. ''These guys out here are so good and Kirk Triplett is a magician around the greens. The odds of making that shot are probably not good, but you certainly expect him to hit a great shot and he did and it went in.''

    Lehman and Langer missed birdie putts after Triplett holed out.

    ''I kind of felt like we both hit pretty good putts, misread them, both of them,'' Lehman said. ''I hit mine probably too hard and Bernhard's was too soft, but you have to hand it to the guys who hit the shot when they have to hit it.''


    Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


    Broadhurst and Triplett closed with a 6-under 48 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to match Langer and Lehman at 24 under. Langer and Lehman had a 47, playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

    The 56-year-old Triplett won his sixth PGA Tour Champions title.

    ''That's a big roller-coaster - three good shots and mine, right?'' Triplett said. ''I'm feeling a little dejected walking down that fairway there, a little sheepish. To knock it in it just reminds you, this game, you know, crazy stuff.''

    Broadhurst claimed his third senior victory.

    ''I don't get too emotional, but that was something special,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said.

    Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal had a 48 to tie for third with 2017 winners Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco. Singh and Franco, the third-round leaders, shot 50.

    Mark Calcavecchia-Woody Austin (48), John Daly-Michael Allen (49), Steve Stricker-Jerry Kelly (50) and David Toms-Steve Flesch (52) tied for fifth at 20 under.

    Getty Images

    Mullinax (T-2) comes up short of maiden win

    By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:06 am

    The Valero Texas Open saw an unheralded player break through to earn a maiden victory, but unfortunately for Trey Mullinax his day will have to wait.

    Mullinax started the final round within a shot of the lead, having fired a course-record 62 during the final round. He trailed Andrew Landry by one shot for much of the final round while racking up six birdies over his first 11 holes, but a pair of late miscues meant the former Alabama standout had to settle for a share of second place, two shots behind Landry.

    A final-round 69 marked a career-best finish for Mullinax, who is playing this season on conditional status and whose lone prior top-10 this season came after he Monday qualified for the Valspar Championship.

    "I know my game's there, I'm playing really well," Mullinax told reporters. "Give all credit to Andrew, he played really well today, rocksteady. He was putting great, hitting great shots."


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Given time to reflect, the 26-year-old will likely look back on the final two holes where nerves appeared to get the best of him. Looking to put some pressure on Landry, Mullinax chunked his pitch on the short 17th hole into a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.

    Then Mullinax was unable to convert a 9-foot birdie putt on the final green, which would have forced Landry to make his 8-foot par putt to avoid a playoff. Afforded the luxury of two putts for the win, Landry rolled in his par save to cement a two-shot win.

    "Made a bad bogey on 17, but just you've got to hit some bad shots," Mullinax said. "Would have liked to have got the putt on 18 to fall to put a little bit of heat on him, but this experience that I'm gaining right now is just going to help me down the road."