The Leadoff: Tiger's on the prowl


As the beams of sunlight began splitting the cracks in the white wood shutters that shade my room from the morning light and the darkness was forced to scurry to the corners like a frightened mouse, I awoke. It was not a normal day, it was the Sabbath, but that is only part of what made it special.

I peel back the down comforter, it is revealed that I am already wearing a shirt, a polo shirt. Not just any polo, a red polo. This isn’t just any Sunday, you see, on this Sunday, Tiger is back. Alright, I didn't really sleep in a red polo shirt (but I would be lying if I said I didn't think about it) but if you turned on the TV this weekend to any sports channel you undoubtedly heard the phrase “Tiger is in contention.”

That phrase alone brings a chill to my spine. Sure, golf is boring. I am willing to admit that it lacks stimuli and if you don't play the sport then you have no way to appreciate crushing the ball 300 yards in the air off the tee, or landing the ball within four feet while coming out of an uphill lie in a bunker onto a downhill sloping green with only a few feet of fringe to work with.

Even if you don't like Golf or Tiger Woods, the impact he has on the sport is fascinating and completely undeniable. It is remarkable how important he is to the sport and how much more popular he is than every other golfer. Think about it this way: if Woods is the Earth, then the next closest golfer to him is the Andromeda galaxy which is 2.5 million light-years away.

According to Daniel Roberts, who writes for Yahoo Finance, “NBC saw a record 5.11 overnight rating on Sunday for its 3-6 p.m. coverage of the final round of the Valspar Championship, the best rating for a non-Major PGA Tour event since the 2013 Players Championship. If you were wondering, Woods won the 2013 PGA Championship."

In golf, there are four major tournaments per year, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, the PGA Championship, and of course the Masters. Last year (without Woods) these are the ratings they put on in their final round: 3.1, 3.2, 3.2, and 6.8. In fact, Kyle Porter of CBS reported that Sunday’s 5.1 beats every PGA Championship telecast since 2014 (6.0), every U.S. Open telecast since 2013 (6.1), and every British Open telecast since 2000 (7.5).

The Valspar Championship is not a major, I would even say it isn't a minor. I mean, they have paint cans sitting at every tee box. I didn’t even know who or what Valspar was before Friday and on Sunday not even Chuck Norris himself could have kept me from my TV screen.

Those who yearn to see Woods return to his rightful place atop the golf world didn’t only watch on Sunday, they watched every stroke he took once it became clear he was feeling good.

Roberts also reported that NBC Sports recorded a 3.26 overnight rating for its coverage of the third round. That is the best rated Round 3 of a PGA Tour event on any broadcast network since 2006, and the best rating in Valspar tournaments history — up an incredible 181 percent over Round 3 of last year. Mind you, this was all without the new young guns in golf that claim to be popular. No Rory McIlroy, no Rickie Fowler, no Jordan Spieth no problem. Oh, I don’t think I even mentioned this yet, Woods didn't even win, he got second.

What is it that makes Woods so much more interesting than everyone else? Everyone has their own opinion but did you see that putt on 17 that put him within one stroke of the leader with one hole to go? The ball was about from K-mart to Santa Margarita (not really, it was 44 feet though) and I swear I wouldn't have taken a breath the whole time if the first thing I didn't hear was some guy from the crowd yell “baba booie” as the ball began its journey to the hole. It was vintage Woods, it gave us all flashbacks to the days you would bet Tiger against the field and feel like you were stealing.

Each time Woods has shown glimpses over these past five years the world has tuned in, but not like last weekend. Could it be that the once indomitable executioner has now been humanized? It is hard to relate and easy to cheer against a guy that always wins. Until his infidelity scandal, we knew about as much about Woods as we do about the Patriots organization, but now his struggles have been well documented. He has had four back surgeries and tried to come back to the game he loves each time only to have it ripped away in humiliating fashion over and over again.

I don’t think it is something that many people are consciously thinking about, but I think for many they have begun to sympathize with the former world No. 1. We all go through family problems, we all have our demons, but we don't go through them with our picture leading Sportscenter and for many when things go wrong we invest in our work. You hear it all the time, a couple gets divorced and both parents devote themselves to work in an attempt to distract themselves from the chaos surrounding them. Woods couldn't.

Maybe you hate him, maybe you love him, but if he wins the Masters it will be the biggest sports (not golf, SPORTS) story in recent memory. One Fox Sports analyst, Nick Wright, claimed that if Woods had won Sunday it would have been the biggest sports moment since Ali beat Frazier.

 

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