Tiger still can draw attention

Tiger Woods can still capture our attention.

Even though it has been a decade since he won a major golf tournament, Tiger is one of the few athletes on the planet who gets people to tune in specifically to watch him play.

Last weekend, he almost made it worth their while.

Any time one of the majors begins, Tiger’s name is dropped as a potential contender, but he’s far from ever being a favorite. Unless you’re thinking it’s still 2008.

However, last Sunday, he did manage to turn back time. On the final day of the British Open, Tiger Woods took the lead for several holes in the middle of his round. A guy who has battled injuries, and let’s just say some “personal issues,” was showing the rest of the golfing world that he could put on a show.

Maybe it wasn’t at the same level that it used to be, but it was still fun to watch. Growing up, I couldn’t get into golf. I found it excruciatingly boring to watch and the idea of paying a bunch of money to attend a major seemed like a huge waste (A 4-day badge to this year’s Masters cost anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000, according to a Forbes article).

Tiger changed that for me. After he won the Masters in 1997, I started to notice golf more and when he played his dual matches on network TV against David Duval and Sergio Garcia, I tuned in. He was young, extremely talented and entertaining.

As a result, I started to talk more about golf with my peers in high school and especially in college, as two of my friends were diehard golfers and interestingly enough, Tiger-haters.

Seeing how I liked Tiger play, it made for some fun chatter during the 2005 Masters, especially when Tiger won in a playoff over Chris DiMarco. I still remember one of my friends throwing his putter across the room after Tiger sank his winning birdie.

After graduating, I lost touch with some of my golf-loving comrades and as a result, my interest also waned. However, I kept up with all of the majors and if Tiger was in contention on the final day, I’d made sure to watch for awhile simply because he was just that good.

The guy managed to win the 2008 U.S. Open basically on one leg and had to have season-ending knee surgery right after tournament that ended his season. Golf was still not my favorite sport, but after that, I felt as a sports fan I had to watch him play.

It wasn’t long after that that Tiger’s image took a huge hit. He wrecked his SUV in a crash right outside his home, eventually bringing his multiple marital infidelities to light. The injuries also kept piling up as he battled both knee and Achilles tendon pain and went through four back surgeries in four years. If that wasn’t enough, Tiger got arrested for DUI in May 2017.

I wondered if the old Tiger would ever return and I know I’m definitely not the only one. He inspired many millennials to take up golf and made people who disliked golf start to pay attention. Ten years ago, I was sure Tiger would be the best golfer ever, but with each passing year, I started to realize that it wasn’t going to happen.

For a short period on Sunday, though, it seemed like it could. After his sixth hole at The Open, Tiger still hadn’t missed a shot and people started talking.

Soon after that, he took the lead. Twitter was buzzing with Tiger’s performance and people started to wonder if he could hang on to the end and slay the demons that had plagued him for a decade.

As we all know, he couldn’t pull it off. He double-bogeyed No. 11 to get knocked off the top spot, and the guy he was paired with, Francesco Molinari, ended up winning the title.

Yet for a brief time, Tiger was on top again. After all he had been through, and a lot that was his own fault, it was nice to see him succeed again. He was focused and calm, two things that had been lacking the last few years. People were liking him again.

During that dominant stretch when he won his 14 majors in 11 years, including four straight major wins in 2000 and 2001, he was astonishing to behold. He actually made golf cool, and even though he’s a shell of what he used to be on the course, Tiger’s still amazing in his own way.

Will he win another major? That’s still hard to say, but after what he did at The Open, people won’t doubt him anymore and I know I won’t.

After a long and grueling stretch, Tiger grabbed our attention again. Let’s see if he can keep it.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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