As we see Tiger Woods lurking near the top of the leaderboard after the first day of the 2019 Masters, we hear a lot of people in the golf world (and beyond), talking about what a Tiger victory would mean to the golf world. There can be no doubt about his drawing power and the TV ratings that he drives for any golf tournament in which he participates. The energy and passion around the events go up tenfold when he competes.
Still, I have always argued that Tiger’s two biggest accomplishments have come outside of competition.
For almost the last 100 years, a collared shirt has been a mandate at virtually every golf club in the United States (and most other countries). Try walking onto a private country club in a tank-top, t-shirt or anything other than a standard polo, and you will be rapidly escorted either back to your vehicle (to leave) or directly to the pro-shop (to purchase a new shirt).
Tiger changed that. Almost single-handedly. I saw almost because we know that Nike had an enormous influence in that marketing play, but even Nike would not have had the power to institute that change, but for Tiger’s power.
The fact that Tiger could show up wearing a mock-turtleneck shirt at one golf tournament and that the entire golf industry would be flipped upside-down is a testament to that power.
I doubt that you can think of any athlete who created such a large change. Even Michael Jordan’s famed Air Jordan brand did not have that same influence. High-tops were a strong fashion before and while he took them to an entirely new level, it was still essentially just a redesign of an existing product.
On the chart of golf fashion, this was a true seismic change.
Tiger’s other “accomplishment” is equally astounding, though less exemplary. While he was roaming the globe with all of his golf success, Tiger was apparently sneaking around behind his wife’s back. This is hardly noteworthy, since it occurs on a daily basis.
What makes his story different is not that he had a beautiful wife and young children.
The remarkable element of his story is that Tiger was able to keep over 100 women quiet. His cheating remained hidden from social media, from leaks from his agency, leaks from his friends and leaks from the women he was keeping time with.
In a world where any action, inaction or mis-deed goes viral within seconds, it is truly hard to fathom how Tiger was able to keep a lid on this story for so long. Having the ability to keep that many women happy (or at minimum, “not angry”) is a huge accomplishment.
For better or for worse.
It should be an interesting weekend at Augusta. But in my view, even a Tiger win will no eclipse either of these accomplishments.