Golf looks at a Tiger Boom 2.0

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By Tiger Woods & 11 years in the wilderness between big tournament wins, professional golf went looking for a successor.

Could it be Phil Mickelson, the once-snake gang left who is actually older than Woods, but who came across the hump in 2004 to become his most formidable challenger in the early career? What about Rory McIlroy, the phenomenon from Northern Ireland, whose brutal collapse in the final round of the 2011 Masters was immediately followed by his first major championship? Or maybe Jordan Spieth, whose Masters won Woods in 2015 for the 72-hole record?

Ultimately, it eventually became all, and therefore none of them. Each player had a handful of big tournament wins and sometimes looked like he could dominate the sport. But none appeared like the next Tiger. Golf stagnated as Woods struggled, looming his shadow in a way that was almost as impressive as his presence in the previous decade.

Now that Woods is back at the top, the question of whether the sport can last is an advantage of his years at dusk to build something that survives when his career finally comes to an end.

Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour's commissioner, believes that the sport is well positioned to take advantage of the re-emergence of Woods. He pointed to the new schedule with the P.G.A. Championship held in May, and a long-term, $ 2 billion international television rights agreement with Discovery.

"It's not like changing your business in a moment like this," Monahan said. "You think about how you come to a moment like this and put your tour and product in the best possible position."

According to most figures, golf peaked in the early 2000s, at the height of the first Tigermania. According to Gallup, 5 percent of Americans surveyed said that golf was their favorite sport to see. In 2017 that number was 1 percent. Golf was tied to volleyball, boxing, gymnastics, motocross, figure skating and rodeo.

According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, 29.5 million Americans played golf in December. In 2017, that number was 23.8 million, a decrease of 19.3 percent.

Unlike most other sports, who believe fans respond most to parity, Woods' dominance was exciting for golf. From June 1997 – when he first became the number 1 ranked golfer – until October 2010, only four golfers besides Woods were number 1, less than a year and a half in total. Woods was ranked first for two different five-year stripes at the time.

Since October 2010, 11 golfers have come first and only dedicated golf enthusiasts and golfers can name more than a few.

However, the money available to golf professionals continues to grow, and if Woods continues to win, he does something that few athletes come across: take advantage of the explosive sales growth that the athlete himself has driven.

In professional sports, athletes of the stars benefit from the interest of the previous generation. Magic Johnson earned less than $ 24 million in his entire career; LeBron James earned $ 33 million this season.

In 2019, the main prize at every PGA Tour tournament – even the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship – earned more than Woods for winning the 1997 Masters. The FedEx Cup bonus pool doubled to $ 70 million.

The huge growth in professional golf turnover in the last two decades is not only due to Woods, but he was certainly the greatest driver. In the nearly 11 years between the major wins for Woods, in which he was revealed to be a serious adulterous man, pleaded guilty of reckless driving, had four back operations and did not even go to a major for many years, numerous segments of the company of golf

Nike, the company that has paid Woods hundreds of millions of dollars and whose red shirts he wears religiously on tournament sundays, the company popped up when Woods turned professional in 1996 and signed it with an approval from the clothing contract. At the time, Nike produced only a limited selection of golf clothing, not equipment.

Three years later Nike started producing golf balls and three years later producing golf clubs. Woods, who had used Titleist clubs, started using Nike equipment. But when Nike & # 39; s golf company golfed with the Tiger Wave, it also collapsed over the years in Woods.

Sales in the golf division of Nike reached its peak in 2013 – the year in which Woods had two top 10 finishes with majors and seemed to have got his career back on track until he missed the cut or 15 of the following 18 majors had not entered. In 2016, the company announced it was leaving the golf equipment market. Around the same time, Adidas sold its money-losing TaylorMade golf division.

Tim Derdenger, a professor of marketing and strategy at the Carnegie Mellon business school and a scratch golfer who has written numerous articles about Woods and celebrities, said the golf world could learn a lot from the way consumers and golfers approach Woods responded.

As an endorser who at one time collected around $ 50 million in sponsorship deals, Woods had some marketing experts have a "Golden Halo effect," Derdenger said. Initially, people wanted to buy products that were related to Woods because they sought to identify with him. Those deals largely went away after Woods & # 39; filthy 2009, but if the halo effect returns, so will the sponsorships.

Derdenger said that Woods also provided "informative value" – people believed that the clothing and equipment he approved was of high quality, as long as he was high in the world ranking.

"There was still value in Nike to preserve Tiger Woods because of this additional approval effect that had not been eroded by the scandal," Derdenger said. ]

Woods has a similar effect on the tournaments that he enters. When he joins in and is on the leaderboard, fans see it as a quality event that deserves their attention. Saturday's television ratings were the highest for the third round of a tournament since 2015 and the viewing public was solid as the starting times were shifted to bad weather.

Whether those viewers were also minorities who will become golfers, as many predicted in the late 1990s, is another question. According to the National Golf Foundation, minorities accounted for 18 percent of all US golfers in 2017, while they accounted for 25 percent of new golfers. Two decades ago, only 6 percent of new golfers were minorities.

"There is more diversity in the game than 10 years ago," said Pete Bevacqua, the president of the NBC Sports Group and a former chief executive of the PGA of America. "I think those numbers aren't good enough yet, but golf is aware of it and is trying to make it better."

It is less clear whether these people will ultimately stay with the sport and whether they have the means to retain their original interest. Professional golf is step by step more diverse than when Woods started, but there is no massive influx of African-Americans or otherwise non-Caucasians into sport on both an amateur and professional level.

Monahan, who took responsibility for the PGA Tour in 2017, said the growing and diversifying golf fans are his top priorities. That is achieved by letting people try non-traditional versions of golf, such as topgolf and video game golf, and offering viewers countless options.

It also means that children have to play through the First Tee, a youth development organization founded in 1997, or the Woods & # 39; s TGR foundation. Monahan is hopeful that Woods' victory will sink. "These moments bring more people into our sport," he said.

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