The golf world has had a week or so to recover from Tiger's amazing performance at the U.S. Open as well as the announcement he will miss the rest of the 2008 season due to injury. Injuries to top athletes happen multiple times throughout the year, but in golf, an injury to Tiger Woods is huge news. No athlete dominates their respective sport like Mr. Woods (and I'm not forgetting Roger Federer either).
The news was devastating at first, and it still stings a little weeks later. The golf world will pick things up and move along for the remainder of the 2008 season, however, and Tiger's loss will be other players' gain. He will miss a lot of key events this year, and that leaves the door wide open for others. The finish to the season should be exciting after all.
The Tiger Effect is in full swing when Woods is playing, but it's also in place when he is out of action. Take a look at some of the events affected most by Tiger's absence, and let's see who has a good shot to step up and gain some recognition.
The British Open and PGA Championship
Tiger Woods always has a good shot at winning majors, even when he is injured. There is a very good chance he would have won at least one of the two remaining majors in 2008, and that is the first door opened by his injury.
Phil Mickelson, who has already won three majors in his career, will have a great opportunity to claim his fourth at one of the two remaining majors this season. Lefty's British Open record isn't very solid, and it will be a surprise if he contends at Royal Birkdale next month. The PGA Championship, on the other hand, will be Mickelson's to lose. The number two golfer in the world will undoubtedly be the favorite at Oakland Hills in August.
Sergio Garcia hasn't won a major yet, and his close calls in the big events is well documented. He won The Players earlier this season when Tiger was out after knee surgery. Afterwards, the young Spaniard made it very clear things were easier when Woods wasn't in the field. Garcia has come very close to winning the British Open the last two years, and he will have a great shot at contending and winning at Royal Birkdale in a few weeks. Going into the event, he will be the favorite.
Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia have the most to gain when it comes to majors, but the rest of the world's best will have their greatest shot to date as well. Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy, etc. won't have to worry about Tiger's name popping up on the leaderboard, and we might see some great play because of that.
It was mentioned last week there would be an asterisk next to the two remaining majors this season because of Tiger's absence. While that seems crazy at first glance, it's easy to see why people would think that way. The golfers who win will earn their victory, but the media will always remember Tiger being out due to injury the second half of 2008. It's the nature of the beast in today's world of sports.
Like seemingly everything else in the world of golf, Tiger Woods won the first-ever FedExCup last season. While he still has a big lead in the standings this year, he won't be winning the title in 2008. This leaves the race wide open, and as I mentioned above, the finish should still be pretty exciting.
Phil Mickelson has yet another great opportunity to win some new hardware in Woods' absence. Lefty is currently second in the FedExCup standings and will have every chance to hold onto the lead over everyone else. However, it remains to be seen how many more events he plays this season. Like the remaining majors, this title is Mickelson's to lose.
Stewart Cink is the guy that really comes to mind when thinking about this year's FedExCup. After his win last week, he moved to number three in the standings and has played consistently all season. Cink plays as much or more than any other top guys, and he will have a good chance once the FedExCup Playoffs begin. Look for him to be a household name by season's end.
More so than the majors, the FedExCup may be the best avenue for a new star to be born in the world of golf. Rory Sabbatini and Camilo Villegas got hot during last year's FedExCup Playoffs, but it was obvious they wouldn't make up enough ground to pass Tiger. This year, however, the race will be wide open for anyone who gets hot at the right time. Guys like Anthony Kim, Boo Weekley, Jeff Quinney, etc. have every opportunity to step up and make their presence known. Hopefully, Tiger's absence will give certain guys the confidence to win and challenge the world's best when he returns in 2009.
The Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup is the wild card as far as Tiger's absence goes. It's hard to say what the impact will be in this event because of the European domination in recent years. It's been stated in The Sand Trap forum the Americans will be better off without Tiger, but that's pretty hard to believe. His record in the event isn't perfect by any means, but he is still the best golfer on the planet. In the end, the United States would have a better shot with him than without him.
Don't completely count the Americans out though. In the world of sports, athletes have a tendency to raise their level of play in a superstar's absence. This could be the case for the United States at this year's Ryder Cup. With Woods out, the rest of the team doesn't have the number one golfer to fall back on. They will have to get things done on their own, and they may play better because of this. On the contrary, they may get blown out worse than they did in 2004.
Tiger Woods had virtually locked up his spot on the team, so another golfer will get an opportunity to step in and play. That's probably the largest impact when it comes to Tiger missing the event. Every American moves up a spot in the rankings, and this will undoubtedly change the life of at least one golfer. It gives guys like Kenny Perry (he still should have played the U.S. Open) an even better chance at making the squad. It's going to be interesting to see how the team looks at selection time.
When it comes to major championships and The FedExCup, Tiger's absence will obviously have a huge effect on the golf world. It's hard to tell how much impact his absence will have on The Ryder Cup, however. On paper, things don't look good for the United States, but being the favorites on paper hasn't worked very well for the Americans in the past. Maybe this is what the U.S. needs to finally get things back to good in the best event in golf.
The Final Say
Believe it or not, the sport of golf will go on without Tiger Woods. The television ratings will take a huge dip, but the quality of golf may not. If the other top golfers step it up, golf fans will be treated to a lot of exciting events. If the top golfers don't step it up, it may be a half-season to forget unless we see the rise of new stars in the process.
Before packing it in as a golf fan until Tiger returns, give things a chance at least. Woods' impact on the sport is huge, but there are a lot of talented golfers not named Tiger Woods. Let's just sit back and see what happens the rest of 2008. Mr. Woods has a way of taking the excitement out of events because of his dominance, so the finish to this season may end up being better than ever.
It's your turn to tell me what you think. Which golfers are going to step up the most in Tiger's absence? Also, is it possible for things to be more exciting without Woods playing the rest of the season? Finally, does the United States have a chance against Europe without their number one? If you have anything to add, please comment below or discuss it in the forum. Thanks for reading this week's Thrash Talk!
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