So, today marks the beginning of the 2011 season for Eldrick Woods. You might remember him from such films as “Greatest Golfer Ever” and “The Night I Cheated on My Supermodel Wife with a Perkins Restaurant Waitress” and “Rachel Uchitel: You Saw Her on Celebrity Rehab…Wouldja?” Anyway, last year Tiger was basically known for one thing, fucking pornstars and losing golf tournaments. He tried to return at the Masters, played throughout the year and didn’t win. He came close, but that mystique of Tiger and championship edge he used to have was gone and young guns like Lee Westood and Graeme McDowell took him down.
So, what do we expect from Tiger now? He fired Hank Haney and hired Sean Foley to “fix his swing” again. He says he spent his (now single) time alone re-grooving his swing, focusing on his short game and re-dedicating himself to mental toughness. Basically, he says that he has his A game back (he kept saying he was close last year) and now he’s poised to “re-claim his number 1 spot” –- if you didn’t know, this is the first time in 5 years that Tiger has not been the world’s number 1 ranked golfer, it’s Lee Westwood.
Here’s what’s different:
- Tiger isn’t young anymore. He’s 35 years old. That’s not old by any means, as you saw guys like Jack winning in his 40’s, but take a look at guys like Phil, and Ernie and Vijay…they’re in their 40’s now and they aren’t really seen as the tour’s best. Tiger can’t do what he did before because his body isn’t what it used to be.
- The tour has “caught up” with him. Guys like McDowell, Westwood, McElroy, Villegas, Watson, Kim…they all grew up watching Tiger Woods and priming their games off of his. Point is, they aren’t afraid of him, they can’t wait for the chance to stand up to the throne and take the spot. Hell, McDowell and Westwood already did and USGA is already looking at Kim to take the American mantle for golf from Tiger.
- Media scrutiny. Sure, Tiger was the PGA, and everyone followed golf for Tiger. That’s nothing new. Difference now is Tiger has gone from being John Cena to being The Miz. People don’t love Tiger. People want to see Tiger lose. People want to see him fail. People want the king to fall and to see someone take his place. The media will feed off of that. I’m not saying you’ll see Feherty switch fields and start being a dick to Tiger, but I am saying you’ll hear more of Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo chipping away.
So, what do we want to see out of the new TIger?
- Show his personal side. If the transgressions of 2009 and 2010 have proven anything, it’s that Tiger is not the machine that Nike, IMG, and the USGA made him out to be. We know that Tiger is a man and he has faults. Don’t be the A-Rod machine, show the personal side and try and connect. For years, golf fans have heard that Tiger is a prankster and, unlike Phil, the entire tour loves Tiger because when the cameras aren’t on him, he’s a genuinely nice and funny guy. Show that side to the world. It doesn’t change what you’ve done, but everyone loves a good redemption story – see Bryant, Kobe.
- Drop the Sunday Red routine. If it doesn’t intimidate anymore, there’s no need to do it. Jim Duggan looks stupid carrying a 2x4 to the ring, he never gave up. Wear a different color, or open up your Twitter account (@TigerWoods) and let fans vote on Saturday – highest vote is the color you wear on Sunday.
- Be smart with the game. Forget playing Angry Birds off the tee and showing the young guns who you are. That’s stupid. Remind us of cerebral Tiger. Play irons only on the links courses. If you’ve got the lead, play fairways conservatively and hold ground. Don’t push if you don’t need to, and leave yourself the easy up and downs.
- Embrace being a heel. How great would it be to start seeing Tiger showing up to tournaments in fur coats, a cigar in hand and local strippers piling out of his car? Seriously, if the world hates you, and no one will forgive you, then take a cue from the WWE and embrace the hate. Become that figure that everyone hates, but has to watch. Scream “Noonan” at your playing partners. Make Happy Gilmore real.
2011 is going to be a make or break year for Tiger. Torrey Pines is “one of his courses” and he’s primed to start on a good note. It’ll take one major to get the monkey off his back and remind everyone who he is. Augusta is practically home to him, so I fully expect him to take another green jacket and return to prominence. Let’s just hope he does it the right way.