Plamondon: Time to let go of Tiger
Brian Plamondon | Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Contrary to popular belief, while 114.5 million people were watching the Super Bowl this past weekend, other sporting events did actually occur.
One actually happened a mere 30 minutes from the Super Bowl — the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the best-attended event in golf. It drew 564,368 fans over four days.
Now, why am I talking about golf in February, you ask? Because Sunday, Tiger Woods was on his couch after missing the cut in the Phoenix Open due to an opening-round 82 Friday. Sunday was also the day world No. 1 Rory McIlroy coasted to a three-shot victory in a prominent European Tour event, the Dubai Desert Classic.
Golf fans and television executives can cling to Tiger as long as they want, but the changing of the guard is upon us.
Tiger just tumbled out of the top-50 in the Official World Golf Rankings, putting him in jeopardy of missing future major tournaments.
Besides that, Tiger’s game is nowhere to be found. I mean, the guy duffed nine chip shots at the Hero World Challenge in December.
“I obviously need to clean up my short game,” Tiger said afterwards. “That still needs a lot of work.”
Tiger, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you have four months off to work on your short game while recovering from injury?
But let’s give Tiger the benefit of the doubt, throw out his 2014 season and chalk it up to his back problems. He returned in 2015 for the aforementioned Hero World Challenge, and subsequently tied for last place, a mind-boggling 26 shots back of winner Jordan Spieth. Then last week, he missed the cut and tied for dead last at the Phoenix Open.
Let’s compare these results to Tiger’s performance returning to the Tour in 2009 after tearing his ACL the previous season. Then, in his first nine tournaments, he had eight top-10 finishes, including three victories.
“This feels like [caddie Stevie Williams and I] hadn’t left,” Woods said after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2009, his third tournament back. “You just remember how to do it.”
Compare that with Woods’ comments after the Hero World Challenge.
“It’s a process to get back to that level,” Woods said. “You have to build up to it. And, you know, I’ve got some time.”
Except … he doesn’t. Tiger is 39 and hasn’t won a major since 2008. Needless to say, time is not on Tiger’s side.
I’ve rambled on about Tiger for far too long. Who we really should be focusing on is his heir apparent, Rory McIlroy.
Rory is “It.” He’s the new “Guy,” and people need to start realizing this. He won three consecutive tournaments that he entered in late summer, two of which were major championships. He’s finished in the top-10 in 10 of his last 11 tournaments around the world, including first or second in five straight.
Sounds like the unequivocal best player of the moment to me. And he’s only 25.
Here are some snippets from his press conference after the win in Dubai this past week:
“I feel like I can keep this run of form going and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t.”
“It’s not a bad thing, I guess, finishing second, but … I sat here Wednesday saying that I didn’t want to finish second anymore.”
“Am I at the peak of my powers? I’d like to think that I could still get better.”
McIlroy is brimming with confidence. To him, it’s win or bust, just like the Tiger of years past.
Rory should be the favorite to win the Masters at Augusta in April, and really every tournament he enters. Yet if Tiger’s there, you can bet that half the television coverage will be devoted to following him around, because that’s who America still cares about.
At this week’s Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger is a 50-1 long shot, among the worst odds of his career. People will still bet on him, though, not because they think he has any chance to win, but because they want the old Tiger back.
Tiger was amazing for the game of golf. He has been the biggest bargaining chip for the PGA Tour’s television deals. He’s brought golf into the realm of modern sports. He was a force for over a decade. But now it’s time for the golf world to give somebody else a chance to be its savior and superstar — enter Rory McIlroy.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.