Today's final round of Buick Open clinched it for me, choosing to watch "Caddyshack" instead of the back nine. The parity was evident, with 10 players within 3 strokes of the lead for most of the day, but the excitement was missing. The leaderboard was faceless. A leaderboard featuring names like Kenny Perry, Matt Jones, Ken Duke, and Bob Tway sounds more like a group of dentists.
Tiger's US Open win two weeks ago was as exciting as golf gets, leaving a trail of unexciting play(ers) in its wake. The world's best player, in a major, coming from behind many times over several rounds, making eagles and 60-foot putts, and winning a playoff hole after the first 18-hole playoff will not be topped. Everything else pails in comparison.
I appreciate great golf and that the remaining players are the best in the world, but they're not Tiger. There are miles of disparity between the #1 player in the world and everyone else. If the Tour's parity holds and nobody wins both of the remaining majors, will Tiger still finish as the Player of the Year? It's a real possibility. If someone is the 2008 Player of the Year, he'll merely be golf's Hakeem Olajuwon. Winning without Tiger is like winning an intramural tournament because the other team doesn't show. You get a T-shirt, ego boost, and trophy, but when pressed about your competition you have to sheepishly admit the top team wasn't around. Suddenly your trophy looks as cheap as it was made.
Networks will have to work hard to manufacture storylines. Everytime an announcer brings up one of following facts or variant thereof, take a drink...it's the "Crap! Tiger's Not Playing Drinking Game!"
- "Phil Mickelson, #2 player in the world, looks to show why he's Tiger's rival. He's ready to show the world why he has the best short game." Tiger has no rival. Mickelson vs. Tiger has been shoved down our throats every year and it never materializes. Phil has all of 3 majors while Tiger has 14. If Mickelson's short game is so good, why doesn't he appear on the first page of the scoreboard every week, as Tiger seems to? Plus, Mickelson is known more for his wife, and having two drivers in his bag than actually coming in first place.
- "Vijay Singh from Fiji, whose first name means "victory" in Hindi, is the 10th best golfer in the world, and practices more than anyone, looks to extend his record for most wins over 40 years of age." Sure he was the #1 player for 32 weeks...back in 2004! Since that year he has won seven times which is just a little less than Tiger's 25. If Singh practices the most and he's still not winning then there isn't much hope for him. Finishing in the top 20 is nice, but we remember winners, not consistent losers.
- "Ernie Els, the South African is consistently in the top 5 of World Golf Rankings, is known as the 'Big Easy'. Hailing from South Africa, he is one of the nicest players on tour. He makes his home in South Africa and plays many events on many tours around the world. Did we mention he's from South Africa?" Sorry, but there's just nothing to distinguish him except for his country of origin...where was that again?
Tiger is such a force that it's all or nothing for the Tour. We only appreciate him when he's gone. I (and major network producers) took it for granted that he'd compete every Sunday. Thank God for multiple "Caddyshack" airings the last two weekends. Watching that never gets old.