Tiger Is Ready As The Open Begins

When Tiger Woods came from four shots off the pace to win the Memorial with all the fist-pumping drama of glories past, it wasn’t just the broadcast crew at CBS who were gushing about the return of golf’s prodigal son. You can only imagine the delirious scene over at NBC, which will air the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. The television ratings lent credence to the Tiger hype; they more than doubled last year’s numbers. For a major, expect all things Tiger, from showing his every shot to opinions on Tiger’s swing, mindset, health confidence, stamina and approach. And nobody in the television world cares one whit whether the public is rooting for Tiger to win or to implode. The point is they watch, and if he’s not on the leader board come Sunday, the numbers will confirm that the business of golf is Tiger Woods.

During the Memorial, his game was rock steady. He was long and straight off the tee, had tremendous distance, control on his irons, a short game that ranged from good to spectacular, and didn’t make all that many putts. For the first time since his fall from grace, Tiger exuded the confidence that at his best makes victory appear inevitable. To have that success at Jack Nicklaus’ tournament and to tie the Golden Bear at 73 PGA wins just served as a reminder to all that Tiger remains a very formidable opponent – as the TV broadcast from announcers to commercials will constantly remind you.

* The use of cell phones at tournaments is a topic among some top pros, especially Phil Mickelson, who texted PGA commissioner Tim Finchem from the sixth fairway at Muirfield to complain. Bubba Watson claimed the phone and their distractions are taking the fun out of golf, and Ricky Fowler also decried the trend.

Here’s the problem: Golf fans spend discretionary income to attend tournaments. Cell phones have become home offices to many and they’re not going away. Golfers need to put the cathedral-like silence they’re accustomed to in the rear-view window. The phones are here to stay. Maybe start practicing with taped noise and have friends or coaches snicker, groan and yell “You da man!” At UH football practice last spring, coaches played loud music throughout practice to mimic game noise. Technology is changing all of society, and golf will get no special immunity.

* Oh, and the USGA came up with a quite a threesome for the first two rounds at Olympic: Tiger, Phil and Bubba.

* The NFL and its refs have come to an ugly impasse in contract negotiations. The league feels that salaries that start at $78,000 and rise with experience to $140,000 are pretty generous for part-time work. Officials work about 120 games over five months. The refs point to MLB and NBA officials who make far more but work far longer seasons and many more games. Yes, the NFL could pay more, but that is not its approach. The NFL officials do a nice job, and I’d like to see them get this settled, but it’s hard to fault the league for putting contingency plans in place that include hiring and training replacements.