Eye of the Tiger: Tiger Woods’ Victory at Memorial Shows Golf Needs Number One Player

Ever since his groundbreaking victory in the 1997 Masters, Tiger Woods has captured the attention of golf fans around the world. Woods’ quest to overtake Jack Nicklaus for most major professional wins — and the title of best golfer ever — has made his 18 holes of play an attention grabber for sports fans.

Of course that all changed in 2009 with his infidelity scandal and rash of knee injuries, both of which kept him from chasing history. Without a signature win as he entered his mid 30s, many wondered if the era of elite Woods dominance was over.

On Sunday Woods roared back to the top of the sport, winning the Memorial Tournament to tie Nicklaus with 73 career PGA Tour wins. The victory alone was gratifying for Woods, but it was his shot on the 16th hole that had spectators reminiscing of the vintage Woods.

Having Woods in contention during the final round paid major dividends for the sport as the Memorial drew a 138 percent viewer increase compared to last year’s tournament. The 3.8 overnight rating was the highest rating for the event’s final round since 2004.

To give you an idea of how intriguing Woods can be: Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers admitted to being late to the TD Garden for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat because he got caught up watching Woods in the final round. Think about that, an NBA head coach showed up late to the arena for a playoff game because he was watching Woods. That’s Woods’ appeal.

Woods’ victory has a financial trickle-down effect for a number of business entities. Nike, NBC, CBS and ESPN are just some who benefit from the re-emergence of Woods. Television networks are undoubtedly hoping Woods can stay hot to keep viewers tuned in.

Even if Woods does not overtake Nicklaus in wins, his presence alone might already solidify him as the biggest name in golf history. Though it hinders their winnings, golfers on tour know that when Woods is competing it benefits the sport, creating an odd scenario in which they are internally hoping for their greatest competitor to succeed.

Everyone can agree, golf is better when Tiger is on the prowl.

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