Tiger Woods or Golf – where does the power lie?

argues that the Tiger Woods scandal strikes right at the heart of golf, confirming that the 18-time Major winner has become bigger than the game itself

Keith Allison, through Flickr Creative Commons

Keith Allison, through Flickr Creative Commons

Tiger Woods’ image is shattered. A disgraced athlete. One of the greatest downfalls in modern day sport. This is the view of many sports pundits considering the astonishing story of Woods that has transpired over the past six months. His position has gone from messiah sent to the masses with golf club in hand to the seedy, unfaithful sorry soul who lived a secret life away from the fairways seemingly no one knew about. But why is it that this story has totally captivated not only the golfing community, but the world of sport in general? The similar escapades of other stars such as Ashley Cole and John Terry were equally well documented in terms of media coverage, but seem to have disintegrated into comparative nothingness when measured against the constant bombardment and intense scrutiny Woods has endured.

So what has led Woods’ story to gain worldwide notoriety for what is now six months? It is simple really. Not only is it owing to his position as world’s best golfer, but also his position as the embodiment of golf. An individual arguably more famous, more influential and more important than the sport itself.

The phenomenal achievements of Woods in such a short space of time have propelled him to international stardom. In his quest to eclipse the record of Jack Nicklaus and win over 18 major championships – the level by which success as a golfer is judged – Woods has already amassed fourteen in just over a decade, totally overshadowing his contemporaries, the closest of which has managed a meagre four. And so, in a world where top athletes’ performance alone is not enough, so their activities off the course, pitch, ring or track are measured. In this Woods again excelled. The Tiger Woods Foundation has helped over ten million young people, with a specific aim to help those deemed underprivileged. The annual ‘Tiger Jam’ concerts further raise money for causes; and then there is the ‘Tiger Woods Block Party’ and two golf tournaments held every year, the AT&T National and Chevron World Challenge (where Woods has been known to donate all his winnings to his foundation).

With the faultless image and impeccable manner in which he dealt with the weight of the golfing world resting on him, it seemed impossible to predict that his world would come cascading down around him near the end of November last year. The car crash outside his home in the middle of the night sparked off revelations of a string of extra-marital affairs, as well as accusations of domestic violence. Seemingly overnight his image that had been carefully constructed since his announcement to turn professional in 1996 vanished into a sea of malicious tabloid accusations, tasteless skits on late night television shows and celebrity gossip websites never before concerned with professional golf. This time Woods was in the news for all the wrong reasons.

In a strange twist I believe this exposure has perhaps not only shown the far-reaching impact Woods has, but served to show us how an individual can totally dictate a worldwide sport. It could be claimed with real legitimacy that the Woods saga is bigger than the game of golf itself. Images were shown around the world of his first stage-managed, robotic press conference since news of the scandal broke. But it was not golf that was making the headlines, it was Tiger Woods. In the weeks leading up to the Masters, the first major of the year where Woods was making his sporting comeback, interest was at a peak, prompting CBS News and Sports President Sean MacManus to proclaim that the occasion would be the ‘biggest media event of the last ten or fifteen years other than President Obama’s inauguration’. But again, it was not so much golf that was making the headlines, more Tiger Woods. This evaluation is given authenticity by the decision of the Masters committee to allow the opening tee shot of Woods on the first day of the tournament to be specially aired. By breaking a tradition held since it first appeared on television screens, the Masters was seen as giving Woods special treatment, such was the intense interest in how his life had unfolded over the previous months. Again, golf was the hapless, forgotten-about performer in the Tiger Woods circus.

Although the respective golf tours continued to operate and attract crowds without Woods – who had announced an indefinite hiatus from the game – the shockwaves of his impact were reverberated throughout the press tents of tournaments being held. Some of the world’s leading golfers such as Ernie Els sulked and moaned at yet again being asked questions they were unable to answer about Woods. Interest in the actual golf tournaments was reserved only for die-hard followers, where the casual observer was more likely to read a headline about the latest sighting of Woods than who was in contention in a particular event. The golfer’s decision to hold his public apology just two days before one of the higher ranked competitions of the year drew criticism – from Els in particular – but served to remind us who holds the real power in professional golf as there is no doubt Woods’ appearance overshadowed the first few days of the event.

So, the scandal of Woods has reiterated the subjectivity of the game to this one man. You could almost say it’s totally deserved as he has managed to single-handedly transform the game. Attracting young children and those who previously hadn’t given the game a second thought, people turned on their televisions on a Sunday afternoon specifically to watch Woods in contention. It is no coincidence that tournaments in which he plays garner double the television audience of those from which he is absent. He has also caused revolution in a financial sense. In 2008 he alone acquired £83 million giving him position as the world’s highest earning athlete. In 1995, the year before he turned professional, only nine golfers earned $1 million a year on the PGA Tour in America, last year ninety-one did.

The impact of Woods is clear for all to see, yet still a number remain sceptical and find room to criticise. Some of these grievances are genuine and Woods himself addressed them when signalling his intent to be ‘more respectful’ to the game and to curb his negative, violent outbursts when on the course. But how can you find significant evidence to suggest he has not done his fair share for the game? As mentioned earlier, he has embraced his situation and has a number of events held annually to fund his foundation. And so, just as the rank and file of the golfing world look to emulate the game of Woods, so they copy (a few) of his off-course activities. For example, number fifteen in the world rankings and fellow major winner Retief Goosen has his own ‘Goose Academy’ to identify and nurture prospective talents. Heck, even lesser known players such as world ranked 135 Darren Clarke have their own academies and prove that the charitable deeds of Woods are manifesting themselves lower down the golfing ladder. This is not to say that such acts were not present before Woods, as they occurred through the game’s governing bodies, but the individual efforts of Woods have acted as a catalyst for the rest of the players out on tour.

Tiger Woods has emerged as a brand as much as a golfer and is unquestionably invaluable to the sport. The media explosion generated by his scandal serves to remind us of his hold over the vast majority of the golfing world. While for now golf holds the upper hand, it is evidently clear that Woods is verging on being bigger than the game itself. Never before has an athlete totally revolutionised the way a sport is played, marketed and followed. So for all his downfalls, let us remind ourselves of the way he has opened up golf to the masses, almost totally transforming it from a ‘snobby’, middle-class game to one accessible even to underprivileged, inner-city children. Without him I fear none of this would have been so successful and so readily implemented.


  1. I think what we are seeing is the public’s mistrust and the anger behind it. Finally, America is waking up – and they are not going to be sold a bill of goods anymore. Whether it is Tiger, Goldman Sachs or the Government. We aren’t going to take it anymore!

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  2. Isn’t it refreshing to get a balanced view for a change. When you balance up the ledger the GOOD side of Tiger far outweighs the BAD.
    Sure, the bad side is not great.However, it wasn’t murder, he didn’t cheat at golf which,by the way, would have been worse than adultery, and he is not the first nor will be the last great athlete to commit this type of indiscretion. It is interesting to note none of his fellow golfers have actually stated they were disgusted with his off course behaviour. Understandable,really,as that could have opened a very large can of worms as to who has done what in their own private lives.
    We should be thankful we are seeing one of the greatest golfers ever in our lifetime. So let’s keep it to golf all you journos out there and bury your opinions of anything outside of Tiger’s golf. You’ve had a fair
    go! As Greg Norman once said ” Opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one “. Unfortunately that’s where most opinions emanate from.

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  3. Tiger’s pretended to be wholesome and good, and now the truth is out that he is not those things and he has lost what is really important-his family and respect. He will be pilloried for ever and a day. He’s tough but not that tough.
    I predict one or two more majors and that will be it.

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  4. He may have lost the respect of some as a man, but he will never lose respect as a golfer (unless he cheated at golf). Watch Tiger win at the US open.

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  5. tiger woods is a True lad! he’s a player and a legend!

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  6. This whole mess with Elin will be over eventually, and Tiger has shown he will not give up golf (nor should he have to – the only reason these two are together in the first place is becase of golf). Therefore, Tiger will continue to dominate (please, don’t tell me that finishing fourth at the Masters with everything he had to endure, including an inability to putt at the Masters for the fifth straight year, was not an amazing accomplishment) his sport, and go on to break and set new golf records. Whether Elin is there to enjoy the perks (money, which she seeminly only cares about) is up to her. If she is really deluded enough to think she can get half of Tiger’s money despite their pre-nup, which cannot be broken by adultery, but only by “physical abuse,” (which she has never claimed, and would have if it had occured) she is as nutty as the lawyers advising her. I believe she is simply trying to get a settlement out of Tiger by threatening to take half of his money. However, Tiger has an air-tight pre-nup and as we all know, Tiger is pretty savvy and very competitive. He will settle as long as she doesn’t ask for too much to save himself the time and embarrassment of having to go through long, drawn out, media covered divorce hearings. However, if she tries to ask for too much, trust me, he will, and he will win, so she better play her cards right and not try to be too greedy. I for one hope she is out of the picture sooner than later. I ask, if she is going to keep flying away everytime she doesn’t get her spoiled bratty little way, then she obviously isn’t interested in working the relationship out, and should file for divorce now. However, I have the feeling she is waiting for the 7 year time limit to pass so she can get the 70 million. We’ll see.

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  7. Aaron, you sound like a proper asshole. I would not want to be married to you. She is his wife and he violated her trust numerous times and could have even given her a sexually transmitted disease from the numerous women he used.

    He is a horrible person and is only sorry because he got caught.

    What an asshole!

    He is a great golfer but is destined for hell.

    Oh, and to the author- how did you manage to come up with 10 million helped by his foundation? Is that how many leaflets they have printed?

    When you are a billionaire, it is your duty to help people. Yes, if he wins the Chevron he would donate $1m to his foundation but what is that compared to $10m to just one mistress? Has she been counted in that 10 million helped?

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  8. 22 Apr ’10 at 12:10 pm

    Rupert Murdoch

    Great to see a new ethusiastic writer on Nouse. Balanced view with great knowledge!

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  9. Sam Morgan is a gorgeous Welsh lad!

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