What/Who is Needed to Keep Golf Fascinating?
The articles are coming out by the dozen – what are we going to do in the post-Tiger world? How will we replace the one who has carried the game for decades, the one who filled the void after the Big Three years? Just like the film world carries a side industry of cult personalities and gossip, golf apparently needs a big personal presence to keep things hot, and if it’s a somewhat dysfunctional presence, all the better.
I’ve certainly bought into it – searching today for a Tiger Woods photo, I just put in “tiger” and expected all the golf photos to come up. Imagine my surprise when I got jungle cats. Tiger was the perfect storm, a gathering of immense talent, an enigmatic personality and a milestone of the tour’s triumph over racism, all in one sudden appearance. He drew a lot of “guess so” fans into the game, and the parts that didn’t go so well for him – they liked that even better. Now, his back’s in bad shape, and we hang on every shot to see if he can come through it. We get the idea after a while that no tour can really survive without a big “break from the pack” personality.
Michelle Wie was supposed to do that. She had it all, but it didn’t pan out for the LPGA. Paula Creamer, Karrie Webb, Lewis, Pettersen and the rest, individuals that they are, might still be too well-mannered and respectful to make it happen. Does the LPGA need a chain-smoking, raunchy firebrand who will scare everybody to death with what she might do or say, but play golf like a demon – someone who drops vulgarities and profanities in an interview straight from the shipyard? How about the Seniors? We can play with anybody when it comes to being cantankerous. Will a real “enfant terrible” spice things up for the Champions Tour?
I don’t believe that professional golf should worry all that much, although in a sense, Tiger seems impossible to replace. But, nature abhors a perfect vacuum, and there is always some talented personality coming down the pike to arouse our interest. We need it, we’re looking for it, and we’ll find it. I certainly can’t guarantee that this new matinee idol of the greens will play the game as well as Tiger, but hey, John Daley peaked the golf world’s interest, too. I don’t think that Phil’s the man. He’s near the end of his career. Jordan Spieth plays brilliantly, but just being young won’t hold things up. Maybe the PGA and other tours need a villain in their midst, a real gunslinger wearing a black hat.
Nature being who she is, we can trace the high points of golfing greats combined with fascinating personalities from the very beginning, from Vardon’s day through the Jones crowd, the Snead & company era to the Fearsome Threesome of Nicklaus, Palmer and Player – no problem, there will always be someone. For the LPGA, finding a true Calamity Jane might take a little more time, but they must be out there.
While we wait for these new sensations, whether they be great players, saints or personal train-wrecks, the game of golf will save itself by producing the drama it always produces. In the case of absolutely any shot made on a golf course, anything can happen or not happen. No two shots in golf are the same as any other, and no lie on the fairway or rough is the same as any other. The possibilities and probabilities are infinite. The opportunities for exotic travel continue to expand, the purses increase, and a major is still a major.