Is Tiger’s absence at Congressional still a major issue?

Jim McCabe and Simon Lewis argue both sides of the debate

Dynamic icons such as Tiger enhance golf’s global appeal

The case for: Jim McCabe

PUT aside those personal biases based upon moral and ethical concerns.

You wouldn’t want your daughter married to him and you’re not going to vote him Father of the Year. This is not about putting him in public office or entrusting him with fiscal responsibility for the citizenry.

This is about golf as a vehicle for entertainment. It is worse off with Tiger Woods on the sidelines.

Spare me those arguments that it’s exciting with Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, and Martin Kaymer tossing around the number one ranking like a hot potato. Save those debates about how the stage has been opened up for all these young stars such as Matteo Manassero, Ryo Ishikawa, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.

No disrespect to any of those talented athletes, but nonsense.

Did Pele’s magic add immeasurable greatness to the World Cup? Did the Beatles enhance the music landscape? Were literary selections more delicious when Hemingway’s shop was set up? Yes, yes, yes, and the answer’s the same if you ask yourself: Does golf miss Woods?

By whatever yardstick you use, Woods is one of the sport’s greatest performers and you could argue that he’s also the best ever. But Jack Nicklaus with 18 still has more major championship victories? True, but Nicklaus never won his majors in the overpowering fashion by which Woods has.

But table those discussions. For purely competitive reasons, the game is better with Woods. It’s hard to fathom thinking otherwise. Think Formula One without Jackie Stewart, Wimbledon without Bjorn Borg.

In each case, the sport has gone on, but it’s been forever improved by those stars’ presence. Ditto golf and Woods.

Woods brought fans out to tournaments and pushed them to turn on their televisions and up until his fall from grace, he never failed to produce anything short of something special.

Had his absence from the landscape been prompted by the inevitable encroachment of age, it would be easier to sit back and accept. But Woods is still a few months shy of his 36th birthday, which in his sport should signify prime time.

Players of Woods’ calibre come around only too rarely, so if you don’t get the full complement you feel cheated.

There was a similar feeling with the iconic Seve Ballesteros, too. He was 31 when he won his third British Open in 1988 and, while we didn’t know it would be his final major conquest, there was a haunting sense in the early 1990s that the man’s genius was slipping away.

At 38, Ballesteros won the Spanish Open, his final bow as a performer. It was far too early a departure and while the game has continued on, it would be foolhardy to suggest it doesn’t miss the incomparable Spaniard.

It is the same with Woods. As talented as McIlroy is; as much as Phil Mickelson remains an enigma and the People’s Choice and as consistent as Donald, Westwood and Kaymer are . . . none of them can win four consecutive majors or rewrite the history books.

Woods did all of that and to say that sort of breathtaking ability is not something the game needs is beyond ludicrous.

Golf, like all professional sports, is fighting to keep relevant to its loyal fan base while attracting new viewers. Young stars surely help that cause. Dynamic icons on stage and in contention carry it even further.

I’ll take wacky races over a stately procession any day

The case against: Simon Lewis

CORRECT me if I’m wrong but they did play major golf championships before the late 1990s didn’t they? Thought so.

In fact, I seem to recall the names Old Tom Morris, Francis Ouimet, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros cropping up once or twice in conversations about golf’s great and glorious past.

Golf existed before Tiger graced our presence and wowed us with his prodigious talent and it will thrive now that talent seems to be in decline, just as it has done since his private life, his game and that gammy left knee imploded at various points over the last three years since he won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.

Okay, so Woods is still the most recognisable golfer on the planet but his dominance of the game since that first record-breaking Masters victory in 1997 was beginning to get a bit monotonous, wasn’t it? Tiger isn’t Tiger any more.

Such was Tiger’s star power and talent that we all flew towards him like moths to the flame, to the detriment of the rest of the field.

There seems more room to breathe at the majors when he’s not around and more for spectators to appreciate — like the 30 or 40 other players who have a chance of winning these things.

A world rankings system in flux right now, with the number one spot changing hands regularly, is good for the game not bad for it. And when more players are in contention at the majors, that breeds more excitement, such as at the last day at the Masters when Woods, reduced these days to mortality, was one of several players in an enthralling mix and we were not sure who would win until right at the death.

I’ll take those wacky races over a stately procession any day of the week.

And there are more stories allowed to unfold at the majors now Tiger isn’t in his pomp — or even here.

There’s Rory McIlroy’s bouncing back from his Masters nightmare, Phil Mickelson spraying it around like confetti at the tee and drilling his putts like a sniper and Robert Rock turning up on a Thursday afternoon at Congressional and shooting one under without a practice round.

In Tigerland, Woods would dominate the headlines no matter what he was doing and the rest would have to make do.

Sure we miss him but this is the US Open, kids. World Cup finals have taken place without Pele for 40 years now, Wimbledon has survived without Bjorn Borg and the Derby is still being run long after Shergar was turned into pet food. Allegedly.

Woods gave us some thrills and spills, all right, and some compelling drama to go along with his sublime talent, but winning two or three majors a year is ultimately unhealthy for the good of the sport, which by definition should be competitive.

He’s not done yet of course but Tiger Woods already belongs on that list of greats listed above and, while we miss them all for what they have given the game, we treasure their contributions rather than bemoan their absence.

We should treat Tiger the same. Life moves on, the heroes of one generation slip gracefully away and are replaced by a new breed. And who needs Tiger Woods when we’ve got a kid — an Irish kid! — called Rory McIlroy lighting up Congressional?

As long as there is new talent coming through, the game of golf should miss no one, just treasure their legacies.

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