SPORTSNET MAGAZINE

Golf's deep in theWoods

Far from an icon, Tiger's a symbol of the game's systemic problems

JOHN GORDON February 3 2003
SPORTSNET MAGAZINE

Golf's deep in theWoods

Far from an icon, Tiger's a symbol of the game's systemic problems

JOHN GORDON February 3 2003

Golf's deep in theWoods

SPORTSNET MAGAZINE

Far from an icon, Tiger's a symbol of the game's systemic problems

JOHN GORDON

When it comes to limping into the 2003 golf season, Tiger Woods is not alone. He's a gimpy standardbearer for a troubled game.

Woods, who strode Zeus-like into his fifth PGA Tour Player of the Year award in six full seasons, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in December to remove cysts and drain fluid. (To further our hypothesis, let's suppose that they were diamond cysts floating in Dorn Perignon. Just imagine what he could have done with two healthy knees. Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els would have even worse nightmares. Yeah, like there are nightmares in their tax bracket.)

Woods will not return to competitive golf until about the time you receive this premiere edition of Sportsnet Magazine, perhaps not even by then. He had not committed to either the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am or the Buick Invitational in San Diego, two of his traditional stops, when this was written.

For the betterment of golf, he might just as well retire. Do us all a favour.

Woods, who despite his earnest efforts to produce significant facial hair turned a downy-cheeked 27 on Dec. 30, has been the poster child for many things, all of them high on the laudability scale—if you're a wealthy male heterosexual capitalist. Nike, American Express, Rolex, Buick, restricted membership at Augusta National, intimate relationships with Swedish bikini models . . . Doesn't really matter whether you're black, white, Thai, or all of the above. As long as you're wealthy, male and heterosexual. Did I mention wealthy? Male?

It's safe to assume Woods never pictured himself performing that poster-child function for a once-healthy sports business now facing a multi-faceted crisis entering the third millennium, whether or not anyone in charge wants to admit it.

Tiger Woods hits from the 18th fairway during the final round of the Target World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California.

You need look no further than Woods himself for evidence. His US $33-million in official PGA Tour career earnings, on the strength of 34 wins, including five last year (two of a possible four major victories), represented approximately 10 per cent of his total income as reported to U.S. Internal Revenue. Despite all those laudable charities, fotogenic (sic) fiancée Elin Nordegren aside, Tiger is the root of all golf’s evil.

Casting aside the erroneous indications that his predominance has encouraged increased participation in the game, Tiger's influence has adversely influenced the game. He has cruelly enticed minorities who will never have the chance to play, priced equipment and apparel out of the reach of most, encouraged course developers to ridiculously lengthen and toughen courses, and hiked tournament purses and appearance fees to the point where most potential venues and sponsors simply can't afford to be involved with what should be the most democratic of sports, thanks to the time-honoured handicap system.

The tired old whine of PGA Tour players as "self-employed contractors" loses much of its lustre when the 125th ranked player on the list cashes out with US $515,000 in official money (double that through corporate outings and endorsements), and when the top player on the PGA Tour's developmental circuit, the Buy.com/Nationwide Tour, makes US $382,000.

Every survey indicates that rounds played have flatlined, all the largest equipment manufacturers are laying off people, and many courses are begging for business.

That Tiger, Tiger thing is burning anything but bright these days, but you'd have a hell of a time getting anyone with a vested interest to admit that. They're all too busy rearranging the chairs on the deck on the clubhouse of the Titanic Golf and Country Club.