As he recently announced, Tiger Woods will be returning to action next week. Many golf fans are eagerly anticipating the return of the best player in the game, as are the TV stations and tournament courses. Tiger brings with him an enormous horde of fans and boosts TV ratings to unheard of numbers for golf. While Tiger is no doubt exciting to watch, and has brought the game of golf to another level in terms of marketability, I would argue that from a fan's perspective he has not been the best thing for the game.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Deutsche Bank Championship at the TPC Boston in Norton, MA. The course was amazing and it was a great day to watch some of the world's best tear it up. Usually this would be an event that Tiger Woods plays in, but due to his injury he obviously did not. As we were standing just off the 14th green watching the player's approach shots and putts, I mentioned to my mates how much of a bummer it was that we wouldn't get to see Tiger play. As quickly as I said that, a man sitting near us mentioned that if Tiger was here, we wouldn't be standing anywhere near this green. He said that he was at the tournament the previous year and that the Tiger crowds were so large that it was impossible to watch him unless you arrived early and staked out one hole the entire day. This did not sound very enjoyable to me. Without Tiger playing, we were able to stroll around from hole to hole and get a great view of everything with little trouble. If Tiger was there, this would not have been possible.
With Tiger out of the picture last year, we were also able to see several players rise to prominence who might have been overshadowed by Tiger had he not been injured. We were able to see Padraig Harrington win two majors, Camillo Villegas show that he was an up and coming young star at the BMW Championship, and a Tiger-less Ryder Cup team end a nearly 10 year drought with help from guys like J.B. Holmes, Anthony Kim and Chad Campbell (my boy). If Tiger had been present for these tournaments he no doubt would have gotten most of the attention, and I bet would have won at least one of the majors that Padraig won, and possibly taken the BMW from Villegas.
Don't get me wrong, I think Tiger is the most talented golfer I have ever seen and it is amazing to watch him surgically master a golf course each time out. All I'm saying is that sometimes his fame can be a bad thing for fans of the game. I'm definitely excited that Tiger will be returning, but it was refreshing to see the spotlight shine on the field for a few months last summer.