Will Tiger save the world? and other important questions for depressing times
Apparently not even the Steelers winning an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl or the spectacle of Santonio Holmes giggling on the Tonight Show couch between Jennifer Anniston and Jay Leno constitute quite the colossal psychological jolt necessary to correct the global economy, so now we'll have to try the sports world's version of the uber cure, namely the return of Tiger Woods.
What, you weren't thinking of it in those terms?
"I think it's awesome," said Buick Invitational champ Kenny Perry. "The economy is down. We need something to boost us up."
Woods returns to golf Wednesday in Tucson, where he'll compete in the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship after a surgery-triggered absence of eight months (breathlessly reported as 253 days in some outlets), and while his status as the No. 1 golfer in the world hasn't changed, his position among the leading economic indicators remains difficult to slot.
• What: World Golf Championships Match Play.
• When: Wednesday-Sunday.
• Where: Dove Mountain, Marana, Ariz.
• TV: 2-6 p.m., Wednesday-Friday, Golf Channel; 2-6 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, WPXI.
• Of note: Tiger Woods defeated Stewart Cink, 8 and 7, to win last year -- his third since the event began in 1999.
The biggest question in that regard appears to center on what advertising logo will appear on Tiger's golf bag now that Buick has finally figured out that throwing something like $7 million annually at the richest athlete in the world while sales are plummeting and General Motors is laying off thousands is perhaps not the most prudent strategy.
To put it most politely.
Buick's big fat triple shield logo has been on Woods' bag since 2000, but for reasons not fully understood, not even the global appeal of Eldrick the Great could brake the precipitous drop in U.S. sales. Tiger's reps say he feels bad about that, and I do too. As someone who purchased used LeSabres (it's French for "the sabre") back-to-back during the Tiger-Buick marriage, it's disheartening to learn that it didn't save the company.
But now, as they said, things are tough all over.
Since last we saw Tiger Woods, snatching the U.S. Open from Rocco Mediate on the 91st hole at Torrey Pines (altogether now) ON ONE LEG (thank you), some fairly unnerving things have happened.
The Dow, which closed at 11,842 June 24, the day of Woods's reconstructive ACL surgery, finished the week at 7,366, a six-year low. Brokerage houses collapsed. Banks became virtually insolvent. Traffic at food banks jumped nearly 30 percent. Most shocking of all, judging by the relative inelasticity of our attention spans, Brett Favre retired, unretired, and retired again while Jessica Simpson was going from a size 2 to a size 8.
Can Tiger Woods save the culture as well as the financial markets?
To whatever extent a significant boost in TV ratings for the WGC Accenture Match Play Championships has some ripple effect in the credit markets, he's clearly capable. Without Woods, ratings for the British Open were reportedly down 15 percent last summer. Ratings for the PGA Championship without Woods fell more than 50 percent, calling to mind a famous quote.
"They recognized that an injury to one is an injury to all."
No, that's not PGA commissioner Tim Finchem, but rather one of Woods' primary influences, Nelson Mandela, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Had Mandela been talking golf rather than oppression, he'd have said, "They recognized that an injury to Tiger is an injury to us all."
Woods surprised some by choosing this week's match play affair as the starting line of his comeback, as it could entail seven rounds of golf in five days if he's immediately successful. Other experts have inferred that Woods' knows he'll be rusty, so a first-round loss to Australia's Brendan Jones Wednesday might be the prescribed first step in the ramp-up to Augusta, where the Masters begins April 9.
This, alas, is as far as the Woods discussion is likely to take us in the near term.
Can Tiger put himself in a position to win a 15th major and find himself just three behind Jack Nicklaus as the golf year gets its legs? He's pronounced himself completely fit, except for what he alternately referred to as his "golf stamina" and "golf endurance."
With this I identify. My golf stamina is about two holes. And that's watching on TV.
Still, no one seems to inspire hope in so many directions like this one golfer.
"I don't think he needs to do a couple of laps around the track," competitor Stuart Appleby told the Associated Press. "He'll be on that horse and he'll be whipping it."
Thus another question we haven't even pondered.
Can Tiger save horse racing?
First Published February 22, 2009 12:00 am