Photo by Phelan M Ebenhack/AP
Tiger Woods and his son Charlie. Dec 20, 2020

The history of Tiger Woods’ effect on golf started about 25 years ago. In 1997, he was the first African-American to win the Masters. Woods occupied the No. 1 ranking in golf for 683 weeks, a feat that will never be accomplished again. Twenty- five years later he is still affecting the game in a big way.

In 1996, before the “Tiger Effect,” there were about 24.4 million golfers in America. Now, 25 years later, that number has skyrocketed to 36.9 million, with many of these players being non-Caucasian.

Before Woods became a professional golfer, professionals made a good living. He changed the landscape by negotiating five-year deals with Nike and Titleist for more than $60 million. He also had deals with American Express, General Motors and several other companies, making him the highest-paid athlete in the world and the first to make over $1 billion.

Now, 10 golf professionals have made more than $50 million. There are 39 pros who have surpassed the $30 million mark in on-course earnings. These golf professionals need to thank Tiger Woods for the bigger purses.

Woods also made golf a more athletic sport. I can remember when I was in high school and the boys on the golf team were non-athletes. Now, many young males are attracted to the sport because golfers are considered more athletic.

Many of the recent major winners, incuding Jordan Speith, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau, are very athletic and train three hours a day when not playing in an event. Even Phil Mickelson, age 50, credits his conditioning for being able to win a major on the PGA tour again.

These days, most players have strength coaches who travel with them, and the PGA has fitness trailers at most events.

Is Woods going to win again? When asked in an interview in November, he said, “I don’t know when that’s going to happen. That’s something that for a while there it didn’t look like I was going to. Now I’m able to participate, to what level I do not know.” 

Woods has come back from several surgeries in the past on his back and knees. However, he is now 46 years old and his injury to his leg has made it difficult to walk many of the hilly courses on tour, especially Augusta National, his favorite tournament.

Finally, his effect on golf was very evident last month when he played in the PNC tournament with his 12-year-old son, Charlie. This parent-offspring event had major tournament winners playing with their children or grandchildren.

More than 2.3 million viewers were glued to the Woods’ grouping where Charlie – “mini-me” – and his dad wore the red and black on the final day. Charlie’s mannerisms were so much like his dad’s. The elder Woods played well, but had to ride in a golf cart. Charlie stole the show with his skill, while his dad showed a lot of skill considering he hadn’t played in a tournament in the past 12 months.

Everyone could tell how proud Woods was of his son. There is a good chance that we will see another Woods on the tour in the future.

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at Pinecrest Golf Club. jean.golfdoctor.harris@gmail.com; golfdoctorjean.com