Leaving the Tiger Woods Era

Taking my golf enthusiasm to another level in hopes of a golf journalism career, with the most blasé interest from some friends/family, has been memorable.

Sometimes it involves clarification for a family member on why pros take such a big divot when swinging. Sometimes there are rules, questions and Happy Gilmore quotes that need explanations for why I never get bored with the sport.

They may be fair-weather fans or simply taking an interest because their friend Sean has an overwhelming one, but of all the things they do or don’t know – they know Tiger Woods.

Everybody knows him, either through fame, fortune or failure; golf fame – big, cardboard check fortune – monogamy failure. He was fun to follow when he was holing putts. For the tabloids, he was just as fun to follow as he crept from that fire hydrant with his tail between his legs.

But that was so long ago. Woods is becoming less and less important to championship golf. Yes, he continues to win some tournaments, just not the right tournaments; none of golf’s four majors in the last five years.

Years ago, he spawned what is now known as the “Tiger-Era,” a time when he was the only thing that mattered on the fairways. His personal life struggles rendered his golf life excessive. But we’ve traveled out of that gloomy time, when golf failed to benefit from new players taking the lead.

And although it seems like forever ago, we’re still not that far from a similar point. Right now, when it comes to championship golf, Tiger Woods doesn’t matter, and it has some people wondering if the sport will eventually survive without its fearless conductor. Contrary to popular belief, I think golf would be fine without Tiger Woods.

It’s certainly a tough argument to make. The “Jungle Cat” simply hitting tee shots, whether they take down fairways or inattentive gallery members, would garner just as many TV viewers as the rest of the field.

Tiger was great because on top of his success was a polarizing factor that led one to like him or dislike him, with very little space in between. In order for golf to be great in the post-Tiger, or dwindling-Tiger era, it needs polarization. It needs storylines.

Just as golf fans grew to love the skinny 23-year-old Woods toppling golf’s greatest tests, they need to grow to love the Jason Dufners of the world. And if not, then loathe him. Love him for his southern heritage and middle school hairdo. Loathe him for chewing tobacco at his leisure. Or love him for that and loathe him for his haircut. I don’t care. Finding an alternative to the once-magnificent Eldrick is important to golf.

In order for golf to get over Tiger and get used to seeing less of him and his cuss-ranted antics, fans need a new fixation like Dufner or the effortlessly perfect Adam Scott; a great golfer that wins.

It’s not a goodbye to Tiger, but simply a hello to someone else just as worthy. It means extending a fraction of the focus elsewhere, because he’s not worthy of the attention he once garnered for being the sure-fire best golfer of all-time.

Expecting Tiger to consistently play golf like he did in his 20s is suffocating. The dude is 37. He’s being treated like a 21-year-old whose parents aren’t ready to see him move onto adulthood. Golf fans aren’t ready to let him graduate from the enticing version of young Tiger.

He can be great, but not multiple-championships-great or turn-of-the-millennium-great anymore. That’s just fine. All good things come to an end, and while Tiger isn’t at his end yet, we’re inching closer and closer. For golf’s sake, don’t overlook everyone else as we head that way.