Dumb Move, Mr. Woods

The introduction for this post can be found here

Tiger Woods apologizes for irresponsible and selfish behavior in FloridaAs my esteemed colleague outlined above, some people believe that Tiger Woods returning to competitive golf at the Masters is a good PR move.  I whole heartedly disagree.

Let me count the ways:

Walk Before You Crawl – Would you want your first game of the season to be Game 7 of the World Series or even the Super Bowl?  From a sheer golf mechanics perspective, Tiger will not be at the top of his game.  He will not have played a round of competitive golf in nearly six months when he tees off at Augusta.  Why not work your way into peak condition before the biggest tournament of the year?

Respect the Game – There is no sporting event in the United States that is as revered as the Masters.  Even folks who aren’t into golf know that this is the biggest championship in the sport.  Instead of the focus being on the greatest golfers playing their greatest golf, it will instead be on illicit affairs and the fallen angel.  Augusta National has a reputation for controlling every aspect of the player and fan experience – how do you think they’ll like TMZ creeping around their hallowed grounds?

Spread the Love – Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?  Tiger’s return to the PGA Tour will be a HUGE event.  In fact…it will be a MAJOR event.  It will draw insane TV ratings and public interest.  Why, then, would the PGA Tour not have Tiger return at another event that could use the “boost?”  Doesn’t make good business sense to me.

Happily Never After? – Tiger’s experience at Augusta can only acceptably end in one of two ways in the eyes of fans.  One, he wins the tournament and puts on a green jacket.  Two, he plays the worst two rounds of his life, misses the cut and flies home Friday night, the sport kicking the man at his lowest point.  Neither one of these is good for golf.  These potential endings are the only ones fans will look at as definitive and satisfying.

The stakes at the Masters are ridiculously high.  Going into it with little preparation and no momentum is a horrible choice for Tiger.  And the PGA Tour has backed themselves into a corner, where no matter who wins their greatest event of the year, Tiger is the story.  Despite what Jeff thinks, and no matter how intriguing the public catharsis may look on paper, this move has “FAIL” written all over it.

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  • cccpr

    I completely disagree on all points. To address them individually:

    1: Tiger's four major victories away from Nicklaus, so there's no way he would miss the Masters. Period. He placed second in his last PGA Tour event, and he won his last event before the hiatus. I equate his time away to the period following his knee reconstruction: he's a bit rusty, but he's been actively working with a swing coach for several weeks now. To think he's anything but totally ready for this moment is silly.

    2: The Masters (at least, the television coverage) has been Tiger-centric for years anyway regardless of his place on the leaderboard, and that won't change. Augusta National's incredible level of control means not only that tabloid-level journalists will be kept at bay, but that unruly fans will be dealt with.

    3: Disregarding the fact that the Masters is one of few tournaments (and possibly the only tournament) with the capacity to handle the forthcoming storm, you're missing the PGA's ultimate goal in facilitating Tiger's comeback. If its intent were to please an individual sponsor, it could do so quite easily…and it has done starting last season when commissioner Tim Finchem started urging players to compete in events outside their normal schedule whose sponsorship contracts were up for renewal. Their goal here is to set the tone for the entire season. Television ratings sans Tiger have been off 50 to 80 percent, clearly proving that the sport hasn't learned to adapt without him yet. What better way to welcome back the money-maker than by making their crown jewel shine that much brighter?

    4: I think, much like his previous absence, the masses are curious whether he can actually win again, not merely in what place he finishes. Of course things would be made easier for him were he to win (and harder for him were he to fail spectacularly), but I think painting either of those as public mandates is misguided.

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  • arikhanson

    As you might have guessed, I have strong thoughts on this topic, too 😉

    I actually like the move, and not just because I'll be at Augusta in less than two weeks.

    To address your points:

    * I'm not sure Tiger needs much “prep.” He's done this before. Heck, he's won on one leg before. The guy is the best competitor we've ever seen (and yes, I'm including Jordan). Plus, how many rounds does he actually play during these six months during his regular schedule? A handful. I know those count, but I don't see that as a big miss.

    * As much as I love and adore the Masters, I'm not the biggest fan of how they manage their golf course and tournament. Snobbery in all its glory. So, I'm not too upset if a few camera crews are sniffing around for a story. Gotta loosen these guys up!

    * The PGA doesn't control Tiger, silly. It's the other way around. Eldrick dictates the terms. Without Tiger then have…well…Charles Howell. I think the PGA played a zero role in this decision. This is all Tiger.

    * How is Tiger winning in a few weeks bad for golf? I think you're underestimating just how huge a win would be–on a number of levels. Ratings wise, that would be off the charts. If he's leading on Sunday, EVERYONE will be watching. Personally, huge vindication for Tiger. And, from a fan's point of view, that would be the ultimate. As a huge Eldrick fan, I'm disappointed with him (in a big way), but at the end of the day, I just want to see the guy play spectacular golf. And chase that magic 19 number. If he gets a win, he's one step closer.

    Great debate, guys!

    @arikhanson

  • beccameyers

    My friend Stephanie writes a great golf blog I think you guys might enjoy. She's been covering quite a bit on the topic:
    http://www.weiunderpar.com/

  • jeffespo

    CCCPR – While Mike is recovering from jury duty, I figured I would comment back. Mike and I worked on this post in tandem with each of us taking a side of the argument. Many of the points that you bring up with Mike were also posted in the rebuttal that I wrote.

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