Column: Golf is better with Tiger playing

Tiger Woods hits from a bunker onto the 14th green during the first round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Nassau, Bahamas. Woods is one-over-par for the round. (Lynne Sladky/AP Photo)

After the wonderful and patriotic Ryder Cup and a return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904, golf is in a fantastic place right now. With a multitude of talented and likeable young players who are at the top of the game, golf is in a good position for the years to come, but it is missing one thing. Golf is better with Tiger Woods being at the forefront.

With Tiger coming back this week at the Hero World Challenge, he is ranked No. 898 in the world, as he has had to crawl his way back from numerous injuries and a scandal in 2010. He has not played in a PGA Tour event since finishing tied for 10th in the 2015 Wyndham Championship, as he always says he is ready to play but then has to pull out right before the start of a tournament.

This time, at the Hero World Challenge, things seem different, as Tiger looks ready to play, and ready to show the golf world that he can win.

After turning professional at age 20, Tiger took the golf world by storm, as he became the world’s No. 1 player and held that distinction for a record 281 straight weeks. He has been awarded the PGA Player of the Year award a record 11 times and sits second all-time with 14 major golf championships. Tiger also sits in second in all-time PGA tour wins with 79, only three behind golf legend Sam Snead.

From Tiger’s first major win in 1997 to his last in 2007, Tiger seemingly had a chance to win every weekend, as people had to choose between Tiger or the field. Besides Michael Phelps in swimming, Tiger Woods is perhaps the most polarizing and dominant sports figure in individual sports. The guy was unbeatable, as if he was given a lead going into Sunday, there was no man on the face of the Earth who had a chance to beat him.

Do not get me wrong, golf has been very fun to watch the last few years, as Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and others have been dominating tournaments and making golf fun to watch. They are great athletes and have helped transition golf to a younger audience, but Tiger was able to transcend golf and be a sports icon, mirroring Michael Jordan or LeBron James. Tiger was more than a man on the links; he was a god.

Despite his past transgressions and his extramarital indiscretions which he has spent years fixing and trying to heal from, Tiger means more to golf than any player now. Watching him play growing up, he made me become interested in golf and want to play and learn the sport. He brought an unbelievable competitiveness and passion to the golf course, as he captured the hearts and minds regardless of color, race and gender. His YouTube highlights, particularly his chip shot on the 16th hole of the 2005 US Masters, are all-time classics. Tiger was just plain better than everyone he played against.

Tiger does not need to win the Hero World Challenge or even finish in the top five. He needs to play all four rounds and finish in the top-15, showing no signs of injury and showing the golf world that he has the ability to play consistent golf. This upcoming golf year, he needs to play in the majors and be able to remain competitive on Sundays.

I want to see Tiger wear red on Sunday. I want to see the full-body fist pumps and awkward high five caddy celebrations. I want to see history and for him to win his 19th major. Golf is better with its most polarizing figure and Tiger is just that.


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.