The King dead! Long live the King!
This was said to be the cry of the masses in days gone by when a monarch passed and a new one quickly ascended to, or forcibly took, the throne. In a far more figurative sense, such a cry is appropriate in the world of American golf.
For more than a decade, professional golf centered on Eldrick Tont Woods, a.k.a. “Tiger.” The number of majors or tour events won, or the number of months and years as the top player in the world are not important.
It isn’t about the math. Tiger Woods was the king of golf because he was the reason people were paying attention.
Certainly there are some who love golf enough to watch the PGA Tour on television week after week just to be close to the game. But when a player has the ability, stage presence and charisma to attract legions of new fans and viewers just to watch that player, then that player is the king.
More attended tournaments in person and more watched golf on television just to see how Tiger was doing. Woods made more youngsters want to be like him.
As most know, he limited his time on top through his own behavior. His fall from grace and the world rankings began in Windermere, Fla., on November 26, 2009. The smash-up of his Escalade coincided with the revelation of his serial infidelity.
Since then, we have seen glimpses of King Tiger Woods, but today he is a shell of what he once was both physically and in the mental aspect of the game. He was actually optimistic after finishing 32nd at the Greenbrier Classic two weeks ago.
As his game continued to suffer, others had the chance to claim the throne. The subjects rooted like hell for king-in-waiting Phil Mickelson.
But Phil, for all of his ability, turned out to be more comparable to Britain’s Prince Charles. Neither seems destined for the crown in this Game of Thrones.
American golf fans continued the search for Tiger’s successor. Florida’s Bubba Watson would be acceptable, but in 2015, it looks like they found their man in Jordan Spieth.
Spieth meets the criteria. He is charismatic, unflappable and, most importantly, people are now watching the game to watch him. DirecTV had a channel following him on the first day of The (British) Open this week.
Did I mention he is only 21? His rapid rise to number two in the world is nothing short of remarkable. If he wins his third consecutive major tournament, this week’s Open at St. Andrews, he will be number one.
Future battles with current number one, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, will determine whether Spieth’s domain will be limited to the United States or if he will rule the golfing world.
With his four over par 76 at The Open on Thursday, under the most favorable conditions, Woods unwillingly turned over the scepter to Spieth. The King is dead.
Spieth claimed it, politely, with a 5-under par 67. Dustin Johnson topped that with a 65, but even with his enormous ability, he doesn’t possess Spieth’s package of tangibles necessary to inspire the multitude to tune in just to watch HIM.
How long will Spieth reign? As long as he keeps doing what he’s doing and remains the humble youngster from Dallas (and maybe helps the U.S. occasionally win the biennial Ryder Cup matches).
Long live the King.