WATCHING THE GOAT

John Granato: Golf is just fine without him, but who wouldn't want Tiger back on top?

Tigers return will mean a big audience at The Masters Andrew Redington/Getty Images

I have the unfortunate circumstance of working with uninformed slow dullards. We all have our crosses to bear. This is mine. There was an article this week on this  website about how golf is desperate for Tiger Woods to be great again.

Well DUHHHH.

Who wouldn’t want their sport to be led by one of its all time greats? I’m sure David Stern and the NBA hated when Michael Jordan came back and won three more titles or even when he came back as a Wizard. Nope. Wouldn’t want to fill up arenas to watch the GOAT.

Despite his differences with the Patriots do you think Roger Goodell doesn’t love Tom Brady highlighting his Super Bowl week practically every year? Nope. Wouldn’t want people tuning into the big game to see the GOAT do GOAT things.

Those are the comparisons that should be used when talking about Tiger - Brady and Jordan, the greatest of not only their era, of all time. It’s arguable who the greatest golfer of all time is. Thanks to Tiger’s injuries and indiscretions Jack Nicklaus still holds the title but it’s not arguable who the most popular golfer of all time is. That title belongs to Tiger.

Tiger also belongs with names like Jackie Robinson for how he opened doors for people that weren’t allowed to play his sport. He wasn’t the first like Jackie was but he brought more people to golf than any human ever.

He belongs with names like Jesse Owens for walking into an arena where he wasn’t welcome and not only winning but dominating. At some point no matter how bigoted you were you had to admit that that black man was the greatest player on the planet.

He belongs with names like Muhammad Ali for how polarizing and controversial he was. Ali missed a big portion of his career in his prime when he became a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. Tiger’s pursuits weren’t that noble but this decade basically without him has robbed us of witnessing history.

That’s why having him back this week playing at a level comparable to what we remember is so cool. A buddy of mine is at Augusta and sent me this text. “You would have thought it was the back nine on Sunday if you just saw the gallery today for his practice round. It’s insane.”

Does golf need Tiger? Golf is fine without him. It’s a niche sport. It’s not for everyone but it takes on a much bigger spotlight with Tiger in contention. The ratings prove that. Who knew what The Valspar Championship was a month ago? With Tiger in the hunt it brought millions to the table.

If he contends this week the ratings will probably rival NBA Finals numbers. Is that good for golf? If you’re in the golf business, of course it is. The more people who are interested the more they might want to buy your product.

Does golf need Tiger Woods? No. Golf has been just fine without him. If you’re a golf fan you don’t really care who’s contending. Unheralded names like Trevor Immelman and Charl Schwartzel have won the Masters. They didn’t have to shut down Augusta National because of it.

Does golf want Tiger to compete this week? Of course. It’s like going to see your favorite band and they’re playing your favorite song. It means something to you. You loved that song when you were younger and it brings you back to that time.

Tiger is that 20-year old song now. Where were you 20 years ago when Tiger burst onto the scene and gave us all those great memories? I’m older so I remember 32 years ago when a 46-year old Jack Nicklaus gave me one of my greatest sports memories and won his sixth green jacket.

That’s why people are so excited about this Masters. There’s that outside chance that Tiger could give us another one of those indelible memories. If a Trevor Immelman or Danny Willet or Mike Weir win this week good on them but it’s not something we’ll remember years from now. But if Tiger wins, 32 years from now some obscure writer on some obscure website will remember where he was while Tiger was playing that sweet music one more time.

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