Believe me when I say that the rest of the golfing season isn’t going to be as exciting as one thought it could be. Just as the dust settled in on what many consider to be one of the closest US Opens of all time, with a ‘football match atmosphere’ capping off and Tiger Woods’ fourteenth major triumph, the World No.1 dropped a bombshell when he declared that he won’t be playing again this season as he would be undergoing yet another surgery on his troublesome left knee.
Woods underwent surgery soon after the Augusta Masters in April to undo cartilage damage. The US Open was the first time Woods played competitively since his Tied-2 finish at the Masters, and many had wondered how much of a threat he would pose at Torrey Pines. The last time Woods hadn’t played a tournament round between the Masters and the US Open was two years ago, when his father died of prostrate cancer. At that time, Tiger failed to make the cut at the US Open – the first time he had failed to do so at any Major.
The extent of Tiger’s injury was so severe that he had not even walked an entire 18 holes until the first round on Thursday. Despite spending so much time away from the course, it barely seemed to reflect in his game. The blasting drives, the exquisite approaches, the finesse of his short game, nothing was missing even despite the fact that he grimaced on several occasions due to pain. In fact, he was playing so well that two time US Open winner Retief Goosen joked that Tiger must just be faking the pain. How much the broadcasters must have wished that Goosen’s joke actually hold true, and that Tiger would be fit to play and attract throngs of viewers!
Mark O’Meara can say all he wants to about the game being bigger than Tiger, but one cannot change the fact that he is golf’s poster boy. If any other sport is dominated by one athlete the way Tiger dominates golf the number of spectators and public interest in it would decrease (remember how Formula One seemed to be getting boring by the day when Michael Schumacher was around?). Yet golf’s popularity keeps growing from strength to strength. The ratings of the final round of the US Open were the third highest of all time, while nearly 50,000 were present to see the Monday playoff between Tiger and Rocco Mediate, despite it being a work day. When Rocco came on the Jay Leno show after taking Tiger to sudden death, Leno jokingly asked him how it felt to have brought the whole country to a stop.
That is what Tiger does for the game. Would the playoff have been such a big deal had, say Phil Mickelson, been there instead of Tiger? Probably not, but that is just a guess. No one, no tournament (barring the Ryder Cup) would be spared the void. The fist pumps would be missing, the clutch putts won’t be there. True, we will have two Major winners that aren’t ranked No.1, and a new FedEx Cup Champion (who’ll be extremely happy for Tiger’s absence since he would have a much easier shot at the $10 million bonus for winning the Cup), but nothing would be able to spare the fans that empty feeling in their hearts.