We are beginning to wonder whether Tiger Woods is good for golf. Certainly, one can argue that when someone emerges as the best of his time or maybe ever, that is a good thing for a sport. Tiger does things to and with a golf ball the likes of which I have not seen in my 60 years. He may be the most recognizable athlete in the world, and in being so fit and trim and strong, he has banished, for the time being, the question of whether golfers are athletes or not. He is quite decidely an athlete. Thank you, Tiger, for that.
But for all the hoopla, has the game of golf been advantaged by the age of the Tiger? Last year the number of golf courses closed exceeded the number opened, the first time in memory that has happened. What about all that new young blood Tiger's popularity would bring to the sport? You would think that the growing popularity of golf in urban and suburban areas would translate into new municipal golf courses, but with the exception of a few high-end daily fee tracks, we haven't experienced a swell of new course development. Indeed, if it weren't for the still significant number of golf courses helping to sell real estate, the net loss of new holes would have been much greater last year.
Because golf is not a team sport, one dominant individual can dull the excitement of competition. When you consider that Thursday begins with about 150 people in a tournament, and that just a few strokes separate the scoring averages of the top guys from the bottom guys, you realize just how dominant Tiger is. He appears to win when he wants to win, and it has gotten to the point -- at least for this observer -- that it is almost more interesting when he isn't close. Until Sean O'Hair's dunking on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass yesterday, the storyline was would Phil choke and/or would the kid hold up. If Tiger's involved, most of the time you have the questions answered before the denouement. I thought there was more drama yesterday.
Finally, golf is a game best watched, and played, in quiet, if not silence. Quiet is the petri dish in which all the tiny little flaws of the game, as well as the perfectly struck shots and brilliantly conceived strategies, can be analyzed by our microscopes. Tiger's popularity has brought with it new on-course spectators who act as if they are at an Ultimate Fighting match every time Tiger makes a swing, whether a drive or a 10-foot putt. It is enough to scare little children, or old guys who remember the days at tournaments when it was so quiet you could hear a ball drop.
So is Tiger good or not for golf? We invite comments.