Tiger Woods’ stint in Delaware signaled his next calling in golf

Tiger Woods’ most important job going forward will be off the course, helping the PGA Tour and its players navigate the now choppy waters of professional golf.

At some point in golf’s most trying year, the man whose personal dominance sparked the game’s fiscal prominence had become, like almost everyone else, a curious onlooker. Tiger Woods’ preparation for the British Open coincided with LIV’s launch in London (June 9) and its follow-up event in Portland three weeks later. Between a disappointing T47 at the Masters and what would become a missed cut at St. Andrews, Woods had plenty of time to reflect on Tiger’s life.

Extensive medical history.

Obvious physical limitations.

Forty-six years old.

More net worth than most suburban neighborhoods.

A Saudi-funded upstart with tons of bluster.

Big-name players dropping out of the PGA Tour for gigantic, upfront cash.

That might explain why Woods flew to Delaware last month ahead of the second FedEx Cup playoff event, taking the initiative to get involved in discussions with fellow tour pros about how to stem the haemorrhage caused by defections in the rival league. By all accounts, the meeting was well attended and very productive – Commissioner Jay Monahan announced significant changes to the 2024 schedule the following week.

Everyone is aware of the influx of prize money and the massive boost to the Player Impact Program (PIP). That’s old news, though Woods’ emergence as the game’s pitcher and proactive ambassador certainly isn’t. The Delaware trip was a story that was largely ignored, more of a photo shoot than an event that required heavy reporting. At the time, the focus was rightfully on the mission itself, and that was certainly adequately covered. Little was made of the actual man on the mission.

Twenty years ago, Tiger wouldn’t have walked 50 yards to a Ryder Cup team meeting unless it was mandatory. He dodged every legislative question and wouldn’t have served on the PGA Tour board if you had held every session in his basement. He was a superstar with tunnel vision, and no one in a tunnel plays politics. Yes, he had recriminations, and if he trusted you, he would vent them in a mixture of sarcasm and fake anger, his barrel still loaded with F-bombs.

This summer, however, Woods surely felt the hand of competitive mortality land on his shoulder. He worked so hard to hone his game for the British Open and didn’t come close to achieving it. His body no longer listens to his mind, leaving him to publicly acknowledge that his career is almost over.

Along comes the LIV invasion, and just like that, the Tour needs him. Wrong. Without notice or anything even remotely resembling a transition, Woods returns to action, acknowledging the purpose of his presence and its effect on all the young players who grew up hoping to be half as good as the One and Only. . For all of the people who saw him as selfish and indifferent in his youth – for all of the words written about how his lousy Ryder Cup record is an apt reflection of that apathy – it’s pretty easy to write off his contributions to Delaware. like once okay.

Don’t bet a penny on it. Age has a way of helping us see the light, and when you’ve faced as much darkness as Tiger has drawn to himself since the infamous collapse of his marriage in late 2009, you haven’t need a meteorologist to tell you the sun is shining.

He’s still the most important person in the game. If Woods ever has his sights set on becoming the next commissioner, it wouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to get there, but let’s not get carried away. Icons do not sit on thrones or behind desks. The work isn’t worth the time or headache that comes with it, and moreover, Woods has greater value to the Tour in an unofficial capacity. Communicate with players. Act as a liaison between church and state. Handling things that only a few people on Earth could handle while having a positive impact on the overall health of Camp Ponte Vedra.

It all comes down to how big a slice of the pie Tiger wants in his competitive afterlife. It is an asset that cannot be duplicated or purchased. He’s also the father of two teenagers and famous enough to earn half a million dollars just by showing up at a department store, which is another way of saying than hanging out at the training ground and chatting with the guy would age quickly. . He’s not wired for small, still conversations, but if you need him to travel 1,100 miles and sit in a hotel banquet hall to talk about cutting Greg Norman, there’s no one in this universe more suited to the task.

For what it’s worth for the greater good, a relationship in pink with Woods is essential to the future of the Tour. Its representation is beyond measure, especially when it comes to any further raid of the product down the road. Any avid sports fan with five or six decades of memory is aware of the internal upheaval that ultimately turned professional tennis into a mess. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, athletics generated significant television ratings through its association with ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” Its spotlight and relevance has since been reduced to a two-week window every four years.

Anyone remember boxing? No sports competition was more popular for a long time, but when ego and greed began to chew through the very fabric of the product, several variations of the sport emerged. These days, Beating People is a completely disparate industry, unrecognizable to the general public, struggling to survive as specialty programming on HBO and ESPN.

Woods obviously can’t do anything for the guys who have already fled the Tour, although he could play a crucial role in brokering their return if Project LIV comes to a halt. His help legislating this latest financial windfall was probably going to happen, anyway, but his willingness to hit the road and hear what needed to be said provided a sense of unification not just for the players themselves, but for the significant percentage of the public concerned. on the current state of the game.

No one in golf knows more about broken bones than Tiger Woods. That’s for sure.

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