When you look at all of the legends we’ve seen help grow their respective sports — achieving monumental victories and racking up championships along the way — some names come to mind right off of the top. Jordan. Gretsky. Mays. LeBron. Pele. Brady. Athletes so special they can go by just one name.
But none of these individuals have done for their sport what Tiger Woods has done for his. Tiger has single-handedly taken golf from an after thought on the back section of the sports page, to the front of newspapers nationwide. In short, Tiger brought golf back into the media mainstream.
You can go around the globe and ask someone who may not even be interested in golf and they will know who Tiger Woods is and what sport he plays. When it comes to the money he’s brought to the sport, the global popularity he’s earned, and the success he’s achieved, no one comes close.
We all know Tiger Woods is still chasing Jack Nicklaus for the mantle of most Majors won, but he has already destroyed pretty much everything else the game of golf has put in his way.
From 1998 to 2003, he made the cut 142 consecutive times, a record that will almost certainly never be broken (the previous record was 113). His uncanny ability to hit clutch shots when it mattered and hold up in the face of pressure — he has a 93% winning percentage when holding a lead at the 54-hole mark — are unmatched.
And his overall intimidation factor on the course left countless opponents wilting like a dying flower.
He changed the way players approach the game from a distance standpoint too. His majestic drives — especially early in his career before injuries took their toll — were incredible to watch. Unlike other one-dimensional golfers, there was never just one facet of the game that he was forced to lean on either. His wedge game is surgical, his ability to scramble is Lamar Jackson-esque and his putting is more buttery than a land-o-lakes factory.
The money he has made for not only himself, but for the game of golf is amazing to look at as well. He burst onto the scene signing a $40 million deal with Nike and a $3.5 million deal with Titleist. To put that in perspective, when he signed that Nike deal, no golfer had ever made 5 million annually on the tour.
Another staggering figure: In 1996, only 10 golfers had ever made 7 million dollars over the course of their career. In 2016, thanks in large part to the prominence Tiger helped bring to the sport, there were 218.
Tiger made golf cool and fresh. His celebration antics — at a time when golfers typically showed restraint — were adopted by not only middle aged men playing with their buddies on the weekend, but also young golfers all over the globe. Many tournament winners recently credit their desire to get into golf to watching Tiger Woods. He helped transform the sport from an old man’s game to a young man’s venture.
We know Tiger has had his struggles. Believe it or not, he is human. His divorce was messy, and the stories about womanizing and abusing certain pills weren’t a great look, but nobody can question his drive on and off the tee box.
Tiger will play this weekend at Augusta and who knows how he will do. But in reality, it doesn’t matter — he has already done enough and more.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Jake Crain is host of the Daily Wire’s “Crain & Company.”