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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Bubba Watson held off Jordan Spieth to win his second Masters Tournament on Sunday. (PHOTO: photofriday / Shutterstock.com )

No Tiger, no problem: golf is great without him


Watching the Masters golf tournament Sunday I was flooded with memories and at least one very important question.

I've covered five Masters in my life. There is nothing like leaving a slightly post-winter Wisconsin and arriving at Augusta. It is as magical as everyone says it is.

I've also played the course twice and once I even broke 100. And I was a pretty decent player.

Those were the memories, but as I watched a group of players struggle to win that prestigious green jacket, I wondered if the game of professional golf was better with or without Tiger Woods.

When he turned professional in August 1996, I was standing about 10 feet away at Brown Deer golf course. At the time I was incredibly impressed and intrigued. He dominated golf for years. He brought a whole new bunch of people into the game.

What had been, and still is pretty much, a mainly white game became a game for people of color, thanks almost exclusively to Woods. He had a gorgeous wife and cute kids. He was philanthropic.

But then came the feet of clay, the infidelities, the lies, the crushing of a reputation. And now, bedeviled by injuries, many caused by the ferocity of his swing, it appears Woods is far less dominant that he was.

There is a new generation of golfers with names like Spieth, Reed, Walker, Day, Bradley, Bubba and Woodland. They are brave, unafraid of past titles and big reputations. They think they can play with anybody, and they can.

They hit it as far as anybody else. They all have short games. All of them can putt. And they all are businessmen. The days of colorful characters seems to be just about over.

So, is golf better off with a pack of players, any one of whom can win any week? Or is it better off with Tiger, or at least "A Tiger" in the game?

I think I can make a pretty good case either way.

With Tiger, people who wouldn't know a seven iron from a 7Up followed the weekly golf tournaments and especially the major golf tournaments. People talked about Tiger. Programs like the First Tee saw an influx of little black kids who wanted to be like Tiger.

As my colleague Jim Owczarski so sensitively pointed out, whenever somebody else finished first, it wasn't that they won, it was that Tiger lost.

Without Tiger, however, every event on the PGA Tour has become open season for a dozen or two young players who are hungry and who have no "back off" in their games.

Need to hit a 275-yard second shot around some trees and hook it 75 yards? No problem. Just hand me my 4-iron. There seems to be nothing they can't do.

I know there are a lot of people waiting for Tiger to come back and claim his rightful place as the best player in the world.

I'm not one of them, though. I am so over rooting for Tiger Woods and his robotic life on a golf course and in an interview room. I think he gets attention way out of proportion to how he plays and how he acts.

Right now I like the fact that I can tune in any weekend and see some young guy I have barely heard of fighting off a trailing pack and getting his first or second win of his career.

What all this means, of course, is that I think the world of professional golf is better off without Tiger Woods.

I think it's more exciting and there's a much higher "in doubt" quotient. One of these days another dominant player will come along but until then, I think that the world of professional golf is much more fun without Tiger Woods.

Talkbacks

Photodavie | April 15, 2014 at 7:05 a.m. (report)

This was THE MOST boring Masters in 20 years. Whether that has anything to do with Tiger I can't say, but man was it boring, uneventful, and not worth the 80+ hours of coverage it received.

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