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Someone has to ask, right? Are we fully prepared for golf post Tiger Woods?

Like, fully prepped and ready?

Ignore the LIV Golf/PGA Tour infighting and gaslighting coming from a certain commissioner – I’ll let you figure out which one – we as a sport, an industry even, may need to come to terms pretty soon that one of the biggest names in sports history might walk away.

This time last year, Tiger hinted he may be looking to the senior tour, saying he was “three years away” from being able to use a cart (carts are not allowed on the PGA Tour).

Then this year, Jack Nicklaus said that Tiger had told him he would play Champions Tour, although Tiger has never said outright that would be the case. “He’ll be able to get in a cart,” Nicklaus told Golf Channel, “and he’ll absolutely kill everybody.”

But will any needles be moved by Tiger “killing” Fred Couples, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Steve Stricker on the old boys circuit? I’m not so sure.

The bigger question is this: what happens when an icon says their time is up? Is there irrefutable scar tissue that won’t heal, or is this clickbait melodrama we needn’t worry about.

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Michael Jordan quit in 1993, then retired twice. The NBA is arguably bigger than ever.

Then there’s MotoGP. In late November 2021, Italian motorsport superstar Valentino Rossi said his goodbyes to the paddock, quitting at the top. His similarities with Tiger are particularly interesting.

He dominated his sport from the outset and never really stopped until father time became too influential.

Rossie won 115 races in all classes, including 89 MotoGP races, a record some believe will never be beaten. He has started 414 grand prix, across all classes, another record.

When he retired at the end of 2021, his peers, including many of his fierce rivals, said the sport was largely built in the last 30 years on the back of his iconic name.

Golf fans know only too well the similar influence Tiger has had. TV deals. Endorsements. Prize money. The invention of WGCs. Worldwide interest. Golfers in heath magazines. Golfers seen as ‘athletes’. There was even a website called that charted Tiger’s every move. He is the needle, etc etc. As much as I hate the term, Tiger did actually make golf ‘cool’.

But MotoGP didn’t falter in Rossi’s absence. Like the NBA post Jordan, it flourished. Post Rossi, weekend TV audiences are up 20%. The sport also experienced all-time attendance figures in the first half of 2023.

• Tiger Woods gives update on PGA Tour-LIV Golf talks 

• The Masters: Eavesdropping at Augusta National

MotoGP isn’t suffering after losing its biggest icon. It’s profiting.

So what can golf learn from this? Well, perhaps we needn’t panic.

Dominant figures will always come and go. Right now, Scheffler has a firm chokehold on the men’s game and, likewise, Nelly Korda is laying waste on the LPGA. Tiger has always fudged the numbers. Golf has never seen star quality quite like it and probably never will again. That’s not a bad thing.

I watched the Masters this week with my eleven-year-old son and not once did he ask about Tiger. He asked about Rory and, interestingly, Bryson. The latter came via You Tube. Diluting the quality of the top fields in golf with the current infighting is the first thing that should be avoided. We’re better together.

The new generation are fixated on the current scene and tend not to look back. For them, Tiger’s legacy is something that happened a long time ago.

When he walks, it will be a loss to ‘us’, those in awe of an icon. But, whisper it, today’s kids might not be that bothered.

FYI closed down post fire hydrant.

author headshot

Bryce Ritchie is the Editor of bunkered and, in addition to leading on content and strategy, oversees all aspects of the brand. The first full-time journalist employed by bunkered, he joined the company in 2001 and has been editor since 2009. A member of Balfron Golfing Society, he currently plays off nine and once got a lesson from Justin Thomas’ dad.

Editor of bunkered

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