So, here we are at golf's last chance at glory, or so the television advertisements boom.
But don't we all know that golf tournaments, especially major championships, with Tiger Woods entered are about as scripted as political conventions and WWF pay-per-views? The winners, sadly, seem predetermined these days, with the only excitement being for us to discover how and by how much the protagonist triumphs.
Hopefully we'll get some drama at this week's PGA Championship, which tees off this morning at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. We should know whether this will be a tournament or another coronation march once Sir Eldrick tees off at 9:13 a.m.
Not to be a heretic, but here's hoping for a weekend that's more about the golf than about the Tiger.
Don't get me wrong. What Woods has done for golf is phenomenal: more money, more exposure, more participants, more more more.
But there is a downside to his dominance. Whenever he plays, that's all we, the viewing public, are spoonfed. Take last week's Buick Open as an example. Woody Austin shoots a 62, 10-under par for one round, and television honchos instead provide us with play-by-play, sweat bead-by-sweat bead tape-delayed coverage of Tiger's round, in which he shot eight strokes worse than Woody.
Then there's the perception that if Tiger's not in the field, the golf must not be worth watching. How many times do you think Ernie Els heard about winning The International only because you-know-who wasn't there?
Let me just say that I'm Tigered out right about now, and it's time for someone, anyone, to step up and defrock him. Please.
He can keep winning, and we can keep marveling at him as we scour through dictionaries, looking for synonyms for awesome, and that's just fine.
Or he could be beaten, allowing golf's future a breath of refreshing air. Maybe we need to know the next 20 years will not be some monotonous Tigerthon where it seems like he's the only one playing.
Really, how exciting would watching NASCAR be if you knew Jeff Gordon would win every week? Some races you don't mind seeing Tony Stewart run Gordon into the wall in turn two.
Watching Tiger is like watching the Lakers when the machine is oiled and Shaq's free-throws are dropping. You come to acknowledge and respect the greatness, but in the interest of establishing a competitive playing field, you don't mind seeing that greatness humbled.
There are 149 others playing this week. Here's hoping someone will play Brutus to Tiger's Caesar, thwarting his attempt to capture his third consecutive major.
Who will be cast in the role of Brutus? How about:
Ernie Els: Winner of two U.S. Opens and second in all three majors this year, though the closest he's come is losing the Masters by three strokes. The PGA has never been his forte; he has missed the cut three times and had just one top-20 finish.
Odds of beating Tiger? Better than most, even though the Big E's been runner-up to Tiger six times in the past two years.
Phil Mickelson: No majors yet, though he has three wins this season, including one in San Diego where he beat Tiger head-to-head. Lefty led at Valhalla through 36 holes in the '96 PGA, only to experience the usual major tightening of the esophagus.
Odds of beating Tiger? Mickelson is not intimidated by Eldrick but must not shoot himself out of contention before a showdown occurs.
Vijay Singh: Won at Augusta in April and has since undergone LASIK eye surgery to improve his vision and changed to a 45-inch putter that plants itself in his abdomen.
Odds of beating Tiger: If he starts making putts, Vijay might tell Tiger to kiss his rump.
Lee Westwood: Second to Tiger in worldwide wins since 1997 and actually outplayed Tiger in a tournament in May in Germany.
Odds of beating Tiger: If the plump Westwood can manage the Kentucky heat and avoid the bourbon breweries, maybe.
Hal Sutton: Last known PGA Tour player to upstage Woods in a fourth round, doing so in The Players Championship in March.
Odds of beating Tiger: 1983 PGA winner hasn't had a top 10 in this tournament since 1991. 'Nuff said.
Davis Love III: Does he still play on Tour? He hasn't won since Hilton Head in 1998 and has failed to truly capitalize on his '97 PGA win.
Odds of beating Tiger: Forget about it. At Bay Hill, Love practically rolled over and admitted his game suffers whenever Sir Eldrick's name graces a board.
Colin Montgomerie: Mrs. Doubtfire's become the Jumbo Ozaki of Europe: He can't win anywhere else. He's got 25 career wins and a big goose egg away from European soil.
Odds of beating Tiger: Who are we kidding? He's got rabbit ears and gets flustered whenever someone insults him. He never has won a tournament with Tiger entered.
Loren Roberts: Only player other than Tiger and Ernie to finish in the top 10 of three previous majors.
Odds of beating Tiger: If this were Milwaukee, then all your money would go on the Boss of the Moss.
Steve Flesch: Hometown favorite enters ranked fourth among the all-around stats, behind Tiger, Ernie and Phil. Not bad for a lefty who has never won on Tour.
Odds of beating Tiger: Could be this year's Russ Cochran, the hometown lefty favorite who led after 54 holes.
And if none of these guys can do it, then how 'bout a best-ball tournament? Tiger vs. Everyone Else.
Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219 or email@example.com.
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