In spite of the hand-wringing (or peals of glee) by the media over Eldrick Woods’ shenanigans, my sense is that the average golfer greets the entire mess with a shrug and perhaps a chuckle. The tragicomic downfall of one player—even if that player is the best in the world—really has no impact on the sport as we know it. That’s because the PGA Tour does not now—nor has it ever—owned golf. Nor, for that matter does the USGA, the R&A, the major golf media or the big name manufacturers.
Golf, as a sport, is owned by the millions who play at public courses and country clubs after work, on weekends, and in their retirement. It is owned by league players and occasional sportsmen; by dedicated amateurs and casual hackers. It’s owned by the 20 handicapper and the scratch player; by the juniors, mids and seniors.
Here’s the curious thing about golf. When my buddies and I get together after work or on a weekend for a bull session, talk inevitably centers around politics and sports. We all are of a like mind politically, and Mrs. GolfBlogger has observed that we mostly are “plotting treason, the next revolution and the reestablishment of the tenth amendment.” Sports talk is about college football and hoops, the NFL and Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, NASCAR and the NBA.
We also talk golf. But unlike the aforementioned sports, the “pros” are not part of the conversation. Instead, we discuss courses played, tips from our local teaching pros, and the great and terrible shots we’ve made. Missing from these conversations are the PGA Tour, the FedEx Cup, Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, the Golf Channel, TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike, Titleist, and any tournament but the majors. The USGA comes up only when we marvel at the impracticality of some of the rules for regular play (such as the one about going back to the original spot on a lost ball; who can do that on a crowded muni?).
What distinguishes golf is that it’s the one sport we actually play. If the Major Leagues were to fold, so too would much interest in baseball. But if the PGA Tour were to disappear, we would keep on playing golf. Proof is that the so-called Tiger Effect materialized only briefly, if at all, in terms of rounds played.
Golf is in many ways the most democratic of sports—a notion that belies its country club reputation. Remember always that it was begun by lowly shepherds in their fields, and that the Old Course at St. Andrews, the home of golf, is a muni. Golf is the sport of the ordinary man, not the extraordinary.
So let the Tiger soap opera continue to play itself out. We’ll keep playing golf.