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The Numbers Don’t Lie: Tiger Is the Most Important Figure in Sports

300px-TigerWoodsOct2011I said it before the Masters, and I’ll definitely say it now: golf needs Tiger Woods more than Woods needs golf.

The ratings for the Masters back up my argument.  The final round earned a 7.8 rating Sunday afternoon (by the way, a 7.8 rating means that 7.8 percent of American households tuned into the Masters).  Keep in mind that final round included a highly likeable Bubba Watson winning his second Masters title in three years.

The ratings were down 24 percent from last year’s Masters finale, in which Adam Scott beat Angel Cabrera in a playoff.  That’s right, a playoff round in one of the most cherished golf major tournaments generated little interest in the viewing public.

Here’s more.  One of the highest ratings for the Masters in the last 10 years was Tiger’s last win in 2005, which got a 10.3 rating.

So the moral of the story is this: no Tiger (or Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy) in contention means low-ass ratings for golf tournaments.

Allow me to take this a step further.  Tiger is the only athlete in recent memory (the last 10 years) where sports fans – casual or otherwise – literally stop what they are doing to tune in to see him in action.  Ever since Tiger won the Masters in dominating fashion in 1997, he had single-handedly drove several new viewers to golf.  Hell, I never gave two damns about the sport until Tiger started dominating.

As his sponsorships grew to mammoth values (Nike, Titleist and Cadillac are among his biggest), so did tournament purses for his fellow golfers.  You think there were as many multimillionaires on the PGA tour before Tiger came along?  I didn’t think so.

Tiger’s dominance has also made him a transcendent athlete in all of sports.  He and his brand is recognized worldwide.  In my opinion Tiger is the second-most popular athlete in the world after Michael Jordan.

Love him, like him, loathe him, or hate him – y’all have to give Tiger his props.

It’s Gonna Be One Long-Ass Year for Tiger

300px-TigerWoodsOct2011It is not looking good for Tiger Woods in 2014.

Woods is off to the worst start of his career.  He tied for 80th at the Farmers Insurance Open, tie for 41st at the Dubai Desert Classic, then withdrew from last week’s Honda.  Then yesterday Woods shot a 6-over-par 78 at Doral’s Blue Monster course to tumble out of contention at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and drop into a tie for 25th, nine strokes behind winner Patrick Reed (by the way, congrats to Reed on his third win on the PGA Tour).

To quote legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, “what the hell is going on out here!”

I know that the back issues that caused Tiger Woods to withdraw from a tournament a week ago flared again Sunday, but I think this is more of a mental thing with Woods.  I’ve already mentioned his pathetic finishes to start the 2014 golf season.  For just the eighth time in his career, Woods failed to make a birdie during a round on the PGA Tour.

The combination of those terrible finishes and failure to make birdies in a round sounds more than a damn back problem to me.

If I were Woods, I would take some time off before participating in the Masters next month.  If his back is giving him problems, he should rest his back so he could get his swing back.  I think the rest would pay him more dividends mentally.  No golfer worth his expensive golf clubs would want to go into Augusta, GA in a funk.

So memo to Tiger: take a break, rest your back, and get your mind right.  Your pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ major wins record depends on it.

Tiger’s Win a Godsend for Golf

Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five strokes over Graeme McDowell, shooting 13-under par in the process.  It was Woods’ first win on the PGA Tour since 2009.

This was significant because it was a full tour event against a strong field, and a performance so clean that he was never seriously challenged on the back nine.  Woods played flawlessly.  He was dominant.

In short, he’s baaaaaaaack – and golf is good for it.

Let’s be real about something: golf was relevant from a ratings and interest standpoint when Woods was dominant.  Viewers tuned in the last day of a golf tournament to see if Tiger either holds on for the win or if he will stage a comeback.

Did you honestly think that people cared to see a few no-namers compete on the last day of a tournament.  Hell even when Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy were in contention, it’s nothing like seeing Woods in contention.

Hell if you don’t believe me, do a study of how much golf made before and after Woods came on the scene.  I didn’t think so…

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