August 4, 2013. Seems like eons ago, doesn’t it?
That’s the last time Tiger Woods won a PGA event. His victory in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was his fifth of the season.
Just a few weeks earlier, Jordan Spieth had earned his first win, in the John Deere Classic. He has won 10 more times since, including three of the four majors.
Woods, meanwhile, has played in 27 PGA Tour events and has missed the cut in or withdrawn from 14 of them. He has finished in the top 10 only three times.
The point of that math is not to beat up on the guy who essentially built what the PGA Tour is today. He’s been hurt. Age and a crippled body have caught up with him.
The point is this: Golf has moved on. When Tiger went poof, golf made itself Tiger proof.
The young bucks who have taken over the Tour are just as much fun to watch as Tiger. We don’t need to have Woods in the tournament to want to watch it. If he’s there, great, all the better. But he’s hardly the only drawing card.
Look at Justin Thomas. The reigning FedEx Cup champion has won seven times in his three-plus full seasons on the Tour.
Look at Patrick Reed. He has won six times since Woods’ last victory – the first one came just two weeks after that Tiger victory in the Bridgestone.
Look at Rickie Fowler. He has won only three times since 2013 but is arguably the most popular player on the Tour.
Look at Dustin Johnson. The world’s No. 1-ranked player has won seven times in the last two years, and one of the victories came in the U.S. Open.
Our great game has become like a baseball team with a power-packed lineup. Just about any tournament with reasonable drawing power features a long list of players you’d like to spend the weekend watching.
Now that lineup is looking to make room for an old veteran who has seen better days but still might be able to hit a home run or two. It’s a nice problem to have.
The ratings certainly will skyrocket if Woods contends in his first event of the new calendar year, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
But it would be wise not to count on it.
When Woods returned to competitive golf in late November, with much hullabaloo, to the Hero World Challenge, he finished in a tie for ninth place at 8 under par.
The winner? Fowler, who was 10 shots better.
Spieth was third.
Reed was fifth.
Thomas was one shot behind Woods. Only Johnson finished considerably in arrears.
That, I predict, is about what you’re going to get most of the time. From all reports, Tiger is hitting the ball better than he has in years. His surgically repaired back seems to be cooperating – so far.
But can you count on those factors remaining positive? That’s a stretch.
I, for one, will watch the tournaments whether he’s playing or not – because it seems like eons ago that he was out there. Golf has found some new stars who are appealing in many ways. It has moved on.