After nearly 10 months away from the game, Tiger Woods will make his return to the PGA Tour at this week’s Hero World Challenge….again.
Tiger’s “triumphant” return to the game is becoming an annual occurrence at the event. The tournament is put on by Tiger’s charity and is exhibit A of why you become an elite golfer.
The Hero is in The Bahamas, there are only 18 players in the field, no cut, a large purse, and world ranking points at stake. In fact, even if Tiger comes in last (he came in second to last in 2016), it’s estimated he will move up nearly 300 sports in the world rankings.
The absurdity of the event’s structure aside, this week is another example of the cache Tiger still has in the modern sports world.
I am a noted Tiger hater and have lost count as to what number comeback this is, but it’s astounding that a made-for-TV glorified exhibition will be one of the most talked about golf events of the year and garner headlines during late season NFL and the most important college football weekend of the season.
That’s all Tiger’s doing.
For better or worse, the PGA Tour and its pursuit of mainstream popularity begins and ends with Tiger. Modern stars like Rory, Jordan, Rickie, and Dustin are popular, have a first name notoriety, but they can’t make the crossover to the average sports fan like Tiger.
The Hero boasts a field filled with top-10 players and major champions, but all that talk is surrounding the player ranked No. 1199 in the world and who’s gone winless for over four years.
This is his umpteenth comeback after injury and the fact that the entire golf world is waiting on his every move with bated breath indicates what kind of void he has left that has gone unfulfilled by the modern-day stars.
Because he has been irrelevant on the tour for most of this decade and has been largely out of the public eye (with the exception of team events and a South Florida policeman’s dash cam), Tiger’s persona has taken on a mythical quality. He had that while playing as he seemed like a God among men, but now he’s a folkloric creature from the past that the new generation wants to get a glimpse of.
I’ll be watching and undoubtedly rooting against Tiger, but his magnetism is undeniable.