Golf has a problem. I mean, besides that it's expensive and time-consuming; it’s playing and viewing population is aging; and its most prestigious tournaments are turning into acts of sadism on the part of course managers in an effort to keep today's professionals from running roughshod over it. This course difficulty and distance creep affects ordinary courses and players, affecting pace and pleasure of play. It's one thing for golf to be a "good walk spoiled," and another when it takes all of the morning and afternoon and leaves you questioning what you're doing with your time and money.
Using Google searches as a gauge of interest overall (I heard a rumor that people search on the internet for things that interest them), golf has been decreasing in popularity for nearly 10 years. Some of this is to be expected. As the internet reaches a point of saturation, as it were, people Google less and go to specific preferred websites for their content. I don't need to Google golf club reviews if I can just go to my preferred website, Hacker's Paradise (shameless plug), and read a review there. It stands to reason golfers use Google less for known content.
Golf's problem is, sad to say, 6' 1" and wears red on Sundays. Actually, it's not Tiger's fault. Woods is notoriously close-lipped, and rarely makes for particularly good press fodder...except when he's running his SUV into a fire hydrant, and running a harem from his cell phone. So Tiger Woods, one of the greatest golfers of all time, winner of 14 major tournaments, didn't just have fewer people searching for him on Google when he was winning 14 majors (his last win was the US Open in June of 2008 in a truly epic battle against Rocco Mediate), he had so many more people searching for him in the midst of his non-golf related controversy it borders on ridiculous.
The press had something to write about, and the sports press, even after they mock-gasped their way through the controversy itself settled into a tidy narrative of will he/won't he. Will he return to golf? Will he still be "Tiger" of old, the mythical golfer who won 4 majors in a row. After winning five times in 2013, the question of whether he'd close in on Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors for his career became an easy article to write.
Why is this a problem? Put simply, when you're writing about Tiger Woods, and Tiger Woods isn't winning tournaments, you're not writing about the winners of those tournaments. Him missing a cut spills more ink than the winner of a tournament. For that matter, the expectation of him missing a cut on his first tournament since having back surgery this Spring still generated more press than the winner of the event.
Eventually, Tiger Woods is going to retire. He might break Nicklaus' record, and he might not. (I'll get branded a Tiger-hater for this, but I don't think he'll win another major. I hope he does, though.) In the meantime, the question of who will come next continues to grow. Individual sports need individual heroes and personalities. Tennis, auto racing, golf, all slide from one star to another, ideally. Golf's attachment to Tiger continues to squeeze the next generation of stars (who weren't dating/breaking up with professional tennis players) to the periphery.
I know that a part of this writing feels somewhat disingenuous. I wouldn't be a golfer if not for Tiger Woods. The way he played, and the dominance he displayed, is infectious. I sincerely believe he did for golf what Muhammad Ali did for boxing, in terms of sporting transcendence. So much interest in the twilight of his career, the desire for one last great run, seems only fitting, due tribute for what he's done for the game. But all glory fades, and the sport needs someone or something else to write about. To lose all the growth the sport has enjoyed over the course of Tiger Woods' career in an effort to cling to his glory days would be a sad legacy to leave, not for Tiger, but for those who follow, write about, and promote our great pastime.
Steven Alwine was born in Berlin, Germany to two American service members, and was raised in Stafford County, Virginia. He worked a lot of odd jobs during his younger years; retail at a comic bookstore, courier of foreign adoption paperwork in DC, waiting tables, and teaching Karate. 12 years ago he joined the United States Army where he started in air defense and is now in the intel maintenance field. He has been married for 7 years, and has two wonderful kids. An avid golfer and gamer, he also considers himself a “generalized athlete”. He is currently working on a degree in Intelligence Studies, and when he retires from the Army he hopes to get into the world of golf marketing.