Johnny Watterson: God, they want Tiger Woods so bad in Augusta

DeChambeau, Seve or Woods. Love or hate them, they're personalities who draw eyes

Tarnation if Tiger Woods has not become the voguish Tiger Woods. If there's one thing this job has taught it is to never underestimate the water chumming tease of the advertising executives in golf.

As the Masters approaches Tiger has been spotted playing a round of golf on the Medalist course in Florida, allegedly mooring his yacht Privacy in Rae’s Creek and was that not one of his jets landing on a strip mall in Lexington?

Shoot, he's everywhere. Tiger again, this time playing the Augusta National course on Tuesday with his mate Justin Thomas and 13-year-old son Charlie. Imagine having to miss class for that.

God, they want him so bad in Augusta. What is it Tiger has the world number one Scottie Scheffler doesn't or Patrick Cantlay or Cameron Smith or the former world number one Dustin Johnson. That's rhetorical.

As much as they pump them up, the heart always harkens to the ilk of John Daly, Bryson DeChambeau, Seve or Woods. Bang for their buck. Love them, hate them, personalities all who draw eyes.

Even in chess the crowds go wild when white opens with the Sicilian Defence and black counters with the Queen’s Gambit. That would be DeChambeau with a 350 yard carry straight through the dog leg, a Tiger snap hook two fairways to the left and then both players impossibly putting for birdie.

Moan from the cheap seats “that’s not proper golf”. But when it happens the rest of the field are playing checkers.

Drooling

The great player personality deficit in golf is no respecter of the entertainment game and no more greatly exposed this week by the endless drooling, mouth gaping and cooing over the fact that Woods might actually turn up at the Masters next weekend as a competitor in the first Major of the year.

Still on the mend following his car crash in which reports stated he almost lost a leg, he has been hitting balls while he also played in a two-day event with Charlie last year. That’s enough for the five times green jacketed icon to stir the loins of the canny promoters and marketers, who carved Woods out as the “redemption story” when he won in 2019.

The most unlikely golf event of the century unfolded three years ago. A flawed man, people who have an issue with greed or cynical exploitation can forgive that in a genius golfer, who winced around the course semi-broken and licked the world.

Although an epic, brilliantly spare sports story where he did what needed to be done with doggedness and sangfroid, achieving the improbable is why they are now clamouring.

A rock solid bogey on the 18th hole in the final round was less Hollywood, more devout pragmatism.

But maybe that’s it, Woods is Hollywood. Pumping up the volume about his inclusion in the draw and his name being in the draw as a result of him not taking it out of the draw is at worst a shot of Tiger juice a week out. Golf needs it. That is why people ask questions like where is the bearded, smiley Beef these days?

Public interest

Woods has already fulfilled a role in multiplying public interest. That’s his speciality and he has done it so many times. In winning his fifth Masters title he monstered audience numbers and now they feel Tiger potential again.

Live coverage of Sunday’s 2019 final round on CBS earned the highest overnight rating for a morning golf broadcast in 34 years.

The final round also tied the highest share of TVs in use for any Masters telecast since 2011. The broadcast had a 21 share, which was a 17 per cent increase from the previous year’s final round.

When he contested the 2018 US PGA Championship, finishing runner-up to Brooks Koepka, CBS network recorded a 69 per cent increase on the previous year's championship and its highest viewership since the 2009 PGA where again Woods was in the mix.

When he won the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta in 2018, not only were there record crowds in attendance but the TV ratings for the final round increased by 206 per cent on the previous year's figures.

Supersizing might be bad for waistbands in fast food outlets but it is good for the similarly-sized waistbands of golf patronage. Woods never fails to inflate a tournament.

In that golf’s reduction of driver length this year to counteract DeChambeau’s bold bigness seems a 405 yard misread. Audience is permissive. Audience is promiscuous. If sexy or compelling is on the other channel they switch and if a broken up 46-year-old golden calf is the best the PGA have to meet people’s needs, heck that’s the law of diminishing returns.

If Tiger decides his bag of bones can manage Augusta’s great rolling changes of altitude and competes, the Masters will wring two day’s play minimum from his commercial reach.

People appreciate low-scoring golf and Rory McIlroy gets traction, so too Jon Rahm and Koepka. But nothing like Woods. The sport can sell great players. But let it try to cast Sam Burns, Sung-jae Im and Billy Horschel as in vogue, livingroom personalities.

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