Lincicome: It still pays to be Tiger, even in Act III

  • Tiger Woods just misses a putt on the sixth hole during Friday's second round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa.

    Tiger Woods just misses a putt on the sixth hole during Friday's second round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. Associated Press

 
Updated 5/21/2022 1:27 AM

There will be golf after Tiger, just as there was golf after Arnie and golf after Jack and golf in between.

Golf, more than any other sport, needs the singular star, one with a singular name, easy to chant, easy to ask. Where's Tiger? Ah, there he is, shanking a chip out of medium rough.

 

There is no real provision for the Time After Tiger, because every time there seemed to be a need for it, Tiger would show up again, as he did last month and again this month.

Golf is a month to month game now; that is, whenever Tiger is up to playing. This is an upgrade from where golf was when Tiger was often absent, his reasons varied and sad.

Tiger would always be back, the promise never doubted, bringing his X-rays with him, leaving his mug shot at home.

It seems that golf will wait for Tiger, as it used to for Arnie or Jack, and it clings to the whim that Tiger is still Tiger when he is not.

This month golf is the PGA Championship, made the second major tournament because May was empty and August was always hot. It will be June and July and the two Opens will save space for Tiger, and then, who knows? Who will care if Tiger is not there?

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Without apology I have always maintained that the only easier way to make money than playing golf is to inherit it. I have also proclaimed that there are no sad stories in golf.

I once combined these two convictions into a lede of a column at the old and venerable Western Open, an honest enterprise that deserved more than a sneer from me. A companion columnist on the same newspaper, without refuting anything I had written nor consulting me in advance, wrote a touching piece about a pro recovering from leukemia.

Lesson learned, Bob. I have tried since to be more appreciative of the game and the toll it takes on those who do it well.

During the Time of Tiger, I favored almost any of his inadequate challengers, as if I was searching for some worthy neck to hang the silver medal on. There was just too much Tiger and never enough Phil or David or Justin. See what I mean? When last names are needed my point is made.

During the Time Before Tiger, there was the Shark, of course, and other assorted aliens such as a couple of Nicks and the occasional Padraig or Retief, and golf wallowed in indifference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Beware of any game where your own score is more important than those doing it for a living. That is why bowling has no audience.

I suppose Phil was the nearest thing to a real Tiger rival, his flaws more endearing than the brilliance of Tiger. Phil's failures were louder and more often. The same could be said of the pre-Tiger Shark, once referred to by me as America's Australian, in it for the money.

Here, as Tiger is taking his last bows, these two faded Tiger stand-ins have combined to tarnish what regard they may have accumulated by promoting a rival golf tour, funded by money from Saudi Arabia, the place where, apparently, all the money is.

There are other tours, Europe, Far East, Champions, Chumps, Whatever. What don't they have? They don't have Tiger.

What the Shark and Phil are after is murky, except more money, of course, with Phil condemning the PGA tour's "obnoxious greed" while acknowledging that those Saudis can be scary dudes.

Here is Tiger saying he's just fine with the way things are and pointing out that the tour became the tour because Arnie and Jack made it so, that their legacy is worth preserving. Tiger, then, has become the voice of wisdom and reason, the Yoda of golf.

That may be his role in the Time After Tiger, and who would have imagined that? Few athletes have ever been more distant nor more cold than Tiger.

It was not Yoda, I'm guessing, but some wise soul once observed that the three stages of life are youth, maturity and don't you look good. Tiger looks good, just not like Tiger. Not a bad thing, really.

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