This past week’s Northern Trust Open was headlined by all the big names and big stories in golf. With world number 2 Brooks Koepka pushing to overtake Dustin Johnson and grab the coveted world number 1 spot, and players like Tiger Woods, Tony Finau, and Tommy Fleetwood fighting not only for the FedEx Cup, but also for spots on their respective Ryder Cup teams. In addition, the 25 players outside the top-100 would not advance to this week’s Dell Technologies Championship in Boston, Massachusetts.
With all this up for grabs, it was no doubt that the crowd was going to be lively, but numerous other tour events of the same stature, and level of competitive play did not receive the level of crowd presence that this past weekends Northern Trust Open achieved.
There are a couple factors at play. Maybe it was the New York/New Jersey crowd who are famous (or infamous) for their heckling, loud cheers, and sometimes rowdy behavior. In addition, Bryson DeChambeau’s 4-shot victory moved him into 1st place in the FedEx Cup standings, with points now quadrupled in the playoffs. He lit up the course on Saturday, shooting -8 (63) in order to put himself in a winning position going into Sunday.
Although these events may have excited the crowd, there is one factor at play that has shaken up the entire golf world over the 2018 PGA Tour season. This X factor is Tiger Woods. It is undeniable that Tiger Woods is one of the most beloved professional athletes of all time. Tiger’s gradual return to the game over these past couple seasons has also shown a gradual return of the fan base he once brought with him. Tiger Woods brings sold out courses, crazy fans, and an undeniable excitement to the game like never seen before.
Woods was essentially out of the running to win the Northern Trust after Friday, and after Saturday was basically just playing for pride. However, he still drew crowds of loyal fans wearing orange tiger hats and “Make Sunday Great Again” t-shirts. When asked why he was following Tiger, one fan who I spoke with on the course said this, “We’re in the presence of greatness, he’s the GOAT [Greatest of all time].”
The Northern Trust saw massive crowds on thursday early in the morning, just so hopeful fans could catch a glimpse of one of the greatest to ever play the game of golf. People came out in droves even during practice rounds just to watch him hit balls on the driving range. Everyone wants a piece of Tiger, and wants to see some of the magic he captures for themselves. And as previously reported by TWN, the stats back up this “Tiger Effect”. The British Open saw it’s best TV audience since 2000, when you guessed it Tiger won the 129th Open at St. Andrews by 8 shots over Ernie Els and Thomas Bjorn. This past month at the PGA Championship saw the best TV rating since 2009, when Woods was in contention at Hazeltine
It is my belief that Tiger Woods may be the best thing to ever happen to the game of golf, at least from the fan’s perspective. Tiger helped golf become a younger crowd full of energy, and has attracted some people who would have never watched the sport had they not been following Tiger.