Here is the top of the leaderboard through 36 Holes at the 2011 British Open:
Who? These thirteen golfers have just five majors between them (Glover, Kaymer, Love III, Lehman, and Schwartzel each have one). Tiger Woods, in comparison, has 14 majors. Not to demean these other golfers, but let’s be honest. Golf simply isn’t the same without a dominant Tiger Woods in the fold.
Now, to be honest, I hate Tiger Woods as much as the next guy (in fact, I probably hate him more than the next guy). The disintegration of Woods’ personal life changed my opinion of him forever, as it did for many. I considered myself to be a huge Tiger fan, but that changed on the night of November 27th, 2009, when he crashed his SUV and his life began to unravel. Woods was one of the only reasons why I watched golf; I’m not a huge fan, but I enjoyed watching the majors, mostly because of how dominant Tiger was. He made a difficult sport seem so easy, and he made other pros look like they didn’t belong on the course with him.
It’s been nearly two years since that car crash and all the backlash that followed, and Woods simply hasn’t been the same since. He’s dealt with several injuries, as well as trying to piece his personal life back together. He’s had to go through a divorce and more media scrutiny then one could even imagine. This has clearly affected his game; Woods hasn’t won a major since his amazing playoff win (while dealing with an ACL injury) against Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open, and he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the 2009 BMW Championship. He lost his #1 ranking after 281 consecutive weeks, and is now ranked 19th in the world. He seemed a shoe-in to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, but now many believe he never will.
Despite all of this, golf desperately needs Tiger back as the game’s best golfer. When he’s participating in a tournament, especially a major, TV ratings jump considerably, and media coverage as well. Golf simply isn’t as interesting without Tiger Woods around. Phil Mickelson wasn’t able to take the torch from Tiger these past few years; Phil has won just one major since Woods’ last major victory in 2008, and that was the 2010 Masters. Though Rory McIlory was impressive in winning the 2011 U.S. Open with the lowest score and lowest total under par in the history of the tournament, there is no guarantee that he will go on a Tiger-like run. Both Mickelson (-1) and McIlroy (E) still have a chance to win this year’s British Open, but even if they do, does that change anything in terms of golf needing Woods? Though I can’t stand him as a person, I can’t deny that golf isn’t the same without that familiar name at the top of the leaderboard. Let’s put it this way: I’ve yet to watch any of the 2011 British Open, but if Tiger was in it, I would be. Like it or not, that’s the reality of golf without Tiger Woods.