Found April 09, 2012 on Midwest Sports Fans:
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The answer, of course, is no. He didn’t.

Sure, Tiger Woods was both putrid and petulant this weekend – putrid in swinging the club, petulant in kicking it – and was a non-factor from late Friday on. But all it will take is for the next Major to roll around for Woods to dominate the golf discourse again.

Should he win said Major, or any one thereafter, his pursuit of Jack’s record once again becomes the #1 story line in golf (if it isn’t still already).

Still, I think the fact that I pondered this question on the way into work this morning is telling. Though it may be hard to articulate, I do think that Woods lost something more than just a tournament this weekend.

tiger-woods-masters

Yes, he lost another opportunity at a green jacket and another of his finite amount of chances to one Major win closer to Jack. But it’s something else.

For the first time in I don’t know how long, maybe ever, I didn’t need Tiger Woods to be enthralled by a golf tournament.

I’ve always been more of a Tiger fan than a golf fan. I realize I am far from representative of all golf fans, but there is certainly a subsection of the sports’ casual fan base that I represent. Considering how much Tiger swings TV ratings, it may even be a rather sizable chunk of the overall golf fan base.

I was excited about this year’s Masters because Tiger’s win at Bay Hill, combined with his ability to compete at Augusta even when he was playing poorly elsewhere, seemed to portend a great four-day run for Woods. It never materialized. As I tracked the scores on Friday, I felt my interest in the tournament slipping.

But then Saturday happened, and much to my surprise I became locked into a golf tournament in which Woods was irrelevant save for club-kicking tantrums and excoriations of his disobedient ball and swing.

Phil made a his patented run. Louis Oostheizen impressed me with his calm, cool, collectedness. And as I learned more about the background of Bubba Watson, and listened to him talk after his Saturday round, I became interested in seeing if the floppy-haired guy dressed in white could swing his pink driver to Augusta glory.

What really piqued my interest in Watson was his candor after Saturday. Asked about how he would handle the pressure of being in contention on Sunday at The Masters, Watson basically said, to paraphrase, that he was going to be nervous as hell as wasn’t sure if he could control it. Who says that? Without being disingenuously “humble” anyway? Something about the honesty of Watson’s admission, combined with his free-wheeling, swashbuckling golf mentality, drew me to him as a fan.

And then he won, after an absolutely thrilling Sunday that featured epic fails, epic successes, and one of the great clutch moments in recent sports history: Watson’s remarkable second shot from the pine needles on the final playoff hole.

It was a great. What a tournament, what a weekend, what a champion.

And what a surprise, at least to me, that it did not at all feel like something was missing without Tiger there getting his green jacket or being a factor on Sunday. I did not expect that to be the case. I’ve never really cared about Sunday at a Major if it didn’t involve Tiger. Yesterday I did, and I kind of liked it. (I even went out to the driving range and hit a bucket of balls on Sunday morning for the first time in ages, inspired by that rousing Saturday I guess?)

Will my interest in golf maintain if Tiger slides further along slow but slippery slope of irrelevancy he inched a little bit down this weekend? I don’t know. I suspect not actually, though this weekend has made me question that.

I’m sure I’ll find myself once again rooting for him when the next Major rolls around, though I’ll really just be rooting for my own selfish enjoyment of sports history than him. Seeing someone attack one of the hallowed records in sports is a rare, immensely enjoyable sports fan experience. I want to see it. Tiger is the only person who can give it to me, so everything else be damned.

The reality is that Tiger continues to make it easier and easier to root against him with his childish on-course displays. Plus, his constant talk about his swing, and reps, and blah blah blah…he’s taken the fun out of watching him because he no longer looks like he’s having any fun at all. Watching Tiger Woods play golf now feels like watching someone at a job they hate. That’s my impression anyway. And it’s made me do the unthinkable, at least for a lifetime Tiger Woods fan: I’ve started to appreciate things like the omnipresent wry smile of Phil Mickelson.

Still, no, Tiger Woods didn’t jump the shark this weekend. Considering everything that has happened over the last 3+ years, and the relevancy he maintains because of his legendary career, I’m not sure he ever really can.

But I did care a lot less this weekend that Tiger wasn’t a factor on Sunday, and I genuinely enjoyed the final two days of the Masters anyway. For a casual golf fan like me, I feel like that means something.

Maybe it just means that all the Tiger talk and hype is what has jumped the shark. What else can be said? He’s back. He’s done. He’s back. He’s done. It’s all been said, washed, rinsed, and repeated.

Just go win a Major Tiger. Until then, other people will. And if this weekend is any indication, for me anyway, that is just fine.

*****

I’m curious as to your thought, so please use the comment section below.

This post is highly subjective based on how I personally experienced this weekend’s Masters. How did you experience it? Did Tiger’s irrelevance make you lose interest? Did you not care in the first place?

I a have feeling opinions on this will be all across the board, and I’m really curious to read them.

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