If there is one thing we’ve learned in the 316 events Tiger Woods has played in — the 79 wins, the 294 cuts he made and the 19 cuts he missed and of course the 14 majors — it’s that golf is addicted to Tiger Woods.
There’s nothing quite like the buzz that you catch when Tiger is in your tournament for four days. Attendance, ratings, eyeballs…everything surges. Not among the purists, of course, they’re in no matter what. But the casual fans of the sport are always in search of their next Tiger fix, either from the man himself or the one deemed to be “the next Tiger” (how many times has that phrase longingly been thrown out there?).
And I’ll cop to it, when I first saw the tweet from golf.com that he was rumored to playing in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, it got my heart racing. Tiger, back in Phoenix! The week of the Super Bowl! Fortunately I caught my breath and quit with the overuse of punctuation.
It occurred to me that the Phoenix Open doesn’t need Tiger. The Phoenix Open is Tiger-proof.
That’s not to say it’s no biggie he’ll be here that week, if indeed it comes to that. That’s not to say the Thunderbirds aren’t thrilled with his decision. I’d be a fool to suggest otherwise.
But the Phoenix Open drew nearly 200,000 people last year on Saturday. A half million for the week. The Thunderbirds have done such a job of branding themselves they’ve set themselves up as one of the few Tiger-proof tournaments on the face of the planet.
The Thunderbirds have mastered the art of knowing their audience. The golfers who come here know exactly what to expect and have come to either tolerate it or appreciate it. That fans who come know exactly what to expect, a pleasant mix of golf, sunny skies, cigars, beer and high heels.
It’s a concoction of goodness that keeps everybody coming back for more. Tiger or no Tiger.