By Trevor Schneider
In 2008, Tiger Woods pulled off one of the most miraculous major victories of all time, beating Rocco Mediate in a U.S. Open playoff just two months after invasive knee surgery. Watching him hobble from tee to green on every hole was painful for me to watch just sitting at home. It was top-end golf, thick with drama and suspense.
If you had told me back then that less than a decade later, I’d enjoy myself watching Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose battle it out on the back nine of Augusta while Tiger couldn’t even sniff the clubhouse, I’d have told you that you were high (in all fairness, if we were hanging out back then, you probably were). The point is, I couldn’t have envisioned watching and enjoying golf without Tiger in the field.
The massive sex scandal and ensuing awkward press conference/I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-to-call-it with his MOM was definitely the first stop off the Tiger bandwagon for many (but not for me, because I got a little something called ‘grit’). After 2010, his play has continued to decline, and injuries have piled up, making it harder and harder to maintain fanaticism and stay the course.
My blind faith in Tiger culminated in 2015, when the U.S. Open was being held locally at Chambers Bay. Not only was Tiger going to win and return to prominence, but I was going to cash in my $6,000 ticket ($100 bet at 60:1 odds) the next day. Needless to say, yours truly held up one end of the bargain by purchasing a weekend pass and my golden ticket. Mr. Woods? Well, he promptly missed the cut. So I got the good fortune of both lighting a Benjamin aflame and not getting to see my idol play in person.
Since then, I have slowly been trying to move on from Tiger, in an effort to begin enjoying the sport again. Once I passed through the 5 stages of grief (denial, depression, denial, depression, and denial) I was finally able to see how much the sport has to offer today. So here are my 5 reasons why golf is actually thriving now that Tiger is formally irrelevant.
1. Ryder Cup
This most recent Ryder Cup was one of the most exciting sporting events of the year. We don’t often get to see golfers play head to head, but the match play format brought out competitiveness and energy usually reserved for basketball or football. Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy had a thrilling back and forth on Sunday, trading shots and taking their turn riling up the crowd, with Reed eventually prevailing in a thriller. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a golfer shush a crowd before, but respect to Rory, it was damn entertaining. The raucous home crowd (I mean, for golf…) with the added bonus of a victory for the U.S. means I will definitely be tuning in for next year’s cup. Plus, it’s nice for America to finally be number one at something other than basketball and mass incarceration.
Pick a couple guys to wager on. That is all it takes to get you engaged. The worst odds you will find on a player to win a PGA tour event is going to be around 6:1, that’s a minimum of $120 payout from a $20 bet. Are you going to win? Probably not, but it’s one way to get into the action and potentially hit the jackpot. My formula is to pick three players to wager on, $20 on somebody in the +600 to +2,000 range, and $10 each on somebody in the +2,000 to +10,000 range and the +10,000 and up range. There’s a decent chance that at least one of them will be in the mix on Sunday. YOLO.
3. John Daly Post-Round Interviews
I’m not saying that this is in the works, but this is me sending out the bat signal to NBC. Who on earth wouldn’t want this? John Daly is the Charles Barkley of golf, with the added bonus of alcoholism and crazy pants. I’m suggesting we stick him behind the green at 18 with a carton of Parliaments and a 30-bomb of Busch Light and let him conduct the post-round interviews (step aside Tom Rinaldi, you and your “journalism” can hit the bricks). Granted, this might fall apart when he’s been drinking for eight straight hours and starts harassing Bubba Watson for a “small loan” to pay off a gambling debt. Who knows, maybe a liquored-up David Fehrety will yield the same result, but I say its worth a shot.
4. Young Guns
The last few years have seen rise to numerous young golf phenoms breathing new life into the PGA tour. In all honesty, the success of these guys my age (and under) has made me seriously question my own life choices and periodically slip into a state of deep depression, which is nothing new. Anyway, it’s fun to watch! Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Ricky Fowler are all in their 20’s and are all playing lights out. Look out for Ricky to lock up his first major championship within the next year or so. Also look for him to continue to try and make Puma relevant (again? Who knows….). Even after lackluster performances, you can still look forward to the shirtless, booze-filled Snapchats of Jordan Spieth, Ricky Fowler, and Justin Thomas post-Masters.
5. Tiger Renaissance
I know this may sound contrary to what I have previously stated, but hear me out. Especially after news of another looming back surgery, how could Tiger possibly re-enter the realm of the PGA tour elite? Honestly, he can’t. I think it’s safe to say the days of watching Tiger work the entire PGA tour field over with the confidence (and pretentiousness) of Bono are over. I’m not saying he won’t ever compete again, I just can’t fathom a situation where he is ever a world top 10 player (fuck me, I finally said it). However, a more likely scenario is a potential relapse into sex addiction. I’m assuming the stress of not having won a PGA event since 2013, mounting injuries, and the fact that nobody is rocking his terrible “TW” branded hats anymore has been weighing on him. It’s time to blow off some steam, Tiger. I want some TMZ footage of you in Daytona Beach partying and hitting on a bunch of blonde, 18-year-old spring breakers. Let’s get you back in the spotlight first and worry about the swing mechanics later. Who knows, maybe the on-course dominance will come more naturally after a little bit of champagne and campaign. For the love of god, make it happen Eldrick.