Golf miss­ing Tiger ap­peal

Lesotho Times - - News -

NEW YORK — While ex­cit­ing young guns Jor­dan Spi­eth, Rory Mcil­roy and Ja­son Day have been piv­otal in draw­ing a wide au­di­ence to the game, the sport is miss­ing the ‘Tiger’ fac­tor when it comes to ‘fringe fans’, says a lead­ing golf ex­ec­u­tive.

Tiger Woods, the great­est player of his gen­er­a­tion and ar­guably of all time, has not com­peted since Au­gust af­ter en­dur­ing set­backs in his re­cov­ery from back surg­eries and has not set a timetable for his re­turn to the PGA Tour.

“You can never re­place Tiger Woods, just like you can’t re­place Arnold Palmer, Jack Nick­laus, and Gary Player,” Ken Ken­nerly, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the PGA Tour’s Honda Clas­sic which was played last week, told Reuters.

“Tiger, it’s dif­fi­cult to re­place him. In my opin­ion, with­out him in the game, we’re miss­ing some­thing.

“Tiger Woods is still Tiger Woods, and when he showed up at the Wyndham Cham­pi­onship last year in Au­gust and played well, and was (in) one of the last cou­ple (of) fi­nal groups ... the (tele­vi­sion) rat­ings were off the charts.”

Woods had his best tour­na­ment in nearly two years at the Wyndham Cham­pi­onship in North Carolina where he flirted with the lead but missed sev­eral birdie op­por­tu­ni­ties in the fi­nal round be­fore fin­ish­ing four strokes be­hind win­ner Davis Love III.

“Does it min­i­mize the neg­a­tive im­pact that Tiger has by not par­tic­i­pat­ing? Prob­a­bly a lit­tle,” said Ken­nerly, who is also a golf ex­ec­u­tive with sports man­age­ment com­pany IMG.

“He still de­liv­ers that fringe fan that golf needs. We saw it di­rectly when Tiger hurt him­self and couldn’t play last year’s Honda Clas­sic ... the spike in ticket sales we nor­mally get lead­ing up to the tour­na­ment had soft­ened a lit­tle bit.

“What does that mean in dol­lars and cents? Prob­a­bly a cou­ple of hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars that we did not see, that would have come through the gates be­cause peo­ple still wanted to see Tiger. He is still an enor­mous as­set for this game.”

Mean­while, Woods told the world last week that he was “pro­gress­ing nicely” fol­low­ing his lat­est back surgery, but Jack Nick­laus thinks he might be do­ing bet­ter than that.

Nick­laus and his wife, Bar­bara, hosted a din­ner for po­ten­tial US Ry­der Cup play­ers at their North Palm Beach home and Woods at­tended, hav­ing al­ready com­mit­ted to be­ing a vice-cap­tain un­der Davis Love III. Nick­laus re­layed what oth­ers who were there have said about Woods.

“He says he was feel­ing great and he was able to stand over a putt and chip now with­out hav­ing any leg pain or so forth,” Nick­laus said.he looked very good; he looked very healthy. And he re­ally misses play­ing. So that’s good.”

Nick­laus said they spoke on sev­eral top­ics, un­der­stood that Woods has no timetable for his re­turn to golf, and re­it­er­ated that he hopes the 14-time ma­jor cham­pion can re­sume his quest to tie Nick­laus’ record of 18.

“No­body wants their records to be bro­ken, but I don’t want you not to have the abil­ity to have the op­por­tu­nity to do so by your health. ... No, he looked great and he was in great spir­its,” Nick­laus said. “The guys en­joyed hav­ing him at the din­ner. We had a lot of nice back and forth about how to play golf and this and that and so forth. It was a very, very nice evening. I hope the guys en­joyed it.”

Nick­laus, 76, said he had no doubts about Woods’ abil­ity de­spite his age.

“Sure, he’s 40 years old,” Nick­laus said. “I did pretty well when I was 40.”

Nick­laus won two ma­jor cham­pi­onships in 1980, the year he turned 40. At this point, how­ever, it is un­clear if Woods will even play in any of the ma­jor cham­pi­onships this year. He’s not played com­pet­i­tively since Au­gust, and it ap­pears he just re­cently started hit­ting shots again.

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