Why is it so acceptable to bash championship teams, the quasi-dynastic programs with their perceived arrogant fanbases and athletes that seem to catch every break in life, but nobody seems to give similar treatment to Tiger Woods, who wins everything?
I once heard in a Golf Channel commercial that golf “is pure theatre.” And that’s true in a lot of ways, for a lot of sports, but golf most especially. We see golfers individually, competing not against one another, but against nature, and sometimes against themselves. It’s not unusual to refer to Tom Watson’s 76 holes at Turnberry as a “performance,” or to say that Stewart Cink was “putting on a show” with his impressive putting on Sunday. Those terms work as descriptors of the game quite naturally.
So I guess it shouldn’t irritate me that golf’s pundits start each Saturday, as Golf Digest’s Dan Jenkins did, by evaluating the level of prestige of the names occupying the leaderboard for that week’s tournament. Only in golf do the writers complain when the players playing well aren’t among the more familiar names of the game. The unsung hero in golf seems to be persona non grata, unless he happens to be chasing the Yes, Tiger Woods missing the cut was a big deal, but some of the coverage suggested that the Royal & Ancient should just pack up the tee markers and cancel the tournament. And this was the British Open.
Bad Leaderboard Syndrome is a very real thing. Its symptoms include shrinkage of television viewership, complacency of casual fans, and eventual forfeiture of sponsorship dollars. The LPGA, with its Korean progeny and inability to capture the attention of the sporting public, is suffering badly from BLS, so much that they staged a coup and ousted their commissioner. Yes, a change at the top was required, but not at the administrative level.
Tom Watson didn’t choke as much as he succumbed yesterday. To the angry Scottish winds. To fatigue. And maybe even to his own imagination. Surely a man in his sixties couldn’t win one of golf’s most storied titles. But he could have. But carrying the weight of the field on his back for four days, and arguably, the entire sport, proved too hefty a burden to bear. Watson’s struggle was good viewing, even if we didn’t get the happy ending for which we were hoping.
And that’s why we love Tiger Woods. Woods doesn’t get the front-runners’ grief that the Lakers, Patriots, or Yankees (or their fans) might receive. Because Tiger Woods isn’t Tom Brady or Derek Jeter. He’s Denzel. He’s Sylvester Stallone, directing himself. He’s Frodo marching to Mordor, with The Ring in tow. Tiger gives us the happy ending for which we clamor. It’s unique to his game. That red shirt trotting out on Sunday is like a curtain rising, and you’d better be in your seat, because that’s a show that nobody wants to miss.
ASYLUM POLL: Which was the biggest choke job in sports history?