Tiger Woods made an interesting move this past week when he withdrew his name from the Safeway Open. A week later, Tiger starts up his own business called TGR, a firm that includes a faction for organizing tour events and designing golf courses. With that, one of the most dominant golfers of all time has begun his transition into the afterlife of golf.
This transition raises up some interesting questions: Who's ready to be Tiger's successor in being the face of golf? Is there such a person that exists? Will golf be a sport to watch if no such person exists? All of these questions are interesting thoughts that concern the state of golf as a whole.
When Tiger Woods burst onto the PGA scene in 1996, there was a lot of fanfare due to his play at the amateur level. Once Tiger won his first major at the age of 21 (the 1997 Masters), the endorsement deals were rolling in. Soon, Tiger was endorsed by companies like Buick, Gatorade, and most notably, Nike. Tiger even had his own video game franchise back in the day. All of Tiger's success (which includes a period of dominance where he won three majors in 2000) had amounted to Tiger's net worth being around $700 million today. Yes, Tiger went through a sex scandal in 2009 that was a part of the damage done to his game (his father's death and debilitating injuries being the others). The sex scandal also lost him a great number of endorsements and sponsors. However, Tiger's name is still up there regarding who's the greatest of all time in the golf realm and is still recognized around the world.
There aren't any golfers out there at the moment that have Tiger's sheer dominance. The current World Number One, Jason Day, only has one major championship (the 2015 PGA Championship). He probably will win another, but the 28-year old will be lucky if he wins at least four (maybe five). Jordan Spieth (ranked #4) won both the Masters and the U.S. Open in 2015, becoming the youngest to win the U.S. Open since Bobby Jones in 1923. He was also the 2015 Fedex Cup champion, capping off a dominant year. However, Spieth suffered one of the biggest collapses in PGA history after leading by five strokes halfway into the final round at the 2016 Masters (Danny Willett won). That loss showed Spieth lacking Tiger's intimidation factor and Tiger's ability to close out a tournament with the lead. Spieth has youth on his side and is perhaps the next successor to Tiger, but he probably won't touch Tiger's 14 major wins. Rory McIlroy is probably the closest thing to being Tiger right now, winning four majors and 22 PGA tournaments. However, the 27-year old has been hampered by an ankle injury from playing soccer. He also hasn't fared well at the Masters, with his highest finish being fourth (2015). The women's side doesn't have anybody that can be marketable, either. I mean, does anybody know who two-time major winner Lydia Ko is? I bet you didn't know that she's the current World Number One on the LPGA side and that she's only 19 (She has two majors).
Compared to its "grand slam" brethren, the sport of tennis, the PGA doesn't really have anybody marketable for the game of golf. Tennis has names from both the men's and women's side with players like Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, and Roger Federer all being recognizable figures. You can even say Rafael Nadal is marketable, although injuries have severely crippled Nadal's ability. All of these tennis stars are still dominant at their profession and still have plenty of years left in their game. For golf, it may take some time for that one player to emerge.
If golf wants to remain relevant, it needs a player who either has: an "it" factor, an amazing amount of talent, or preferably, both. The sport of golf needs a player that can be marketed and easy to relate with towards the common fan. Will that player come around in the near future? Who knows.