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BERRECE ANDREWS CRITIQUES SPORTS
Bridgestone Turns Its Back on Tiger Woods
By Berrece Andrews
The Mid-South Tribune
and the Black Information Highway
AKRON, Ohio – The Bridgestone Invitational is the third of four events in the World Golf Championship series, where players from around the world test their skills against each other. Last year, Tiger Woods became the first to win the same event seven times on the same course, continuing his dominance of the World Golf Championship events, and his dominance of the game of golf. Only one golfer, Sam Snead, has won the same tournament more times with eight at the Greater Greensboro Open. But this year it was not to be. Hunter Mahan’s three shot come-from-behind victory equals the tournament record for the largest comeback at Bridgestone. Mahan is also the third player in his 20’s to win a World Golf Championships event, joining Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy.
The reality is, Woods was never in the tournament after going out the first day and shooting a four over par 74. He proceeded to finish 18 over par and a whopping 30 strokes behind the winner. He finished tied for 78 out of 80 golfers his worst finish ever in a PGA event. By the end of the fourth round you could see what he was thinking, on to the next one. The problem is, he is entering the last major of the year feeling beaten up by a familiar friend who just turned his back on you.
It is no secret that more African Americans are watching golf and attending tournaments these days including the PGA tournaments. This was evident at Bridgestone. A reporter with ESPN commented to me that the attendance at Bridgestone may have been the largest turn out of African Americans he has ever seen. There is no way to verify this, but they were there in numbers and they were there to see and support Tiger Woods. Yes, they were there to support Tiger Woods along with many others in the crowd at the Firestone South course.
Starting Thursday with his time on the practice tee, the attraction was clear. The stands filled up for Tiger as shouts from the crowd could be heard, ‘Come on Tiger’, ‘Let’s go Tiger’ and ‘good luck Tiger’. Golf fans wanted to see the still number one golfer in the world. Unlike on the course, he did not disappoint. Tiger began his warm up with routine wedges in a tight shot pattern beginning with target one, then target two, and finally three with ever increasing distances. He worked his way through the middle irons with the same precision finally getting to the club everyone wanted to see, the driver.
Tiger warmed up next to Dustin Johnson on the practice tee. Watching two of the longest drivers of the ball on the PGA tour was quite a show. He did not take that precision to the course with him. The one thing he did take to the course with him was a high pull draw. This ball trajectory followed Tiger to the first tee where he proceeded to pull his tee shot on the number one hole left into the trees. He bogeyed the first hole and it was all up hill from there for the number one golfer in the world.
It was clear that Tiger still had support from many in the crowd. Interviews from African American participants revealed some patterns. They all came to see and support Tiger. They came as individual women in their mid-twenties, to four generations of men from the same family on an outing to two African American women in their sixties. They had attended from one to nine PGA tournaments and all believed that attendance at PGA golf events was up due to Tiger Woods. The two women in their sixties even reported that on Sundays now, many women in their church group get together and watch golf because of Mr. Woods. They all continue to support him and want him to do well even with his off the course antics.
“It’s going to take time” was a consistent message of what it’s going to take to get back to his previous form. They all believe that to continue the increasing interest in golf among African Americans, it will take more exposure to the game early and more programs that provide access like the First Tee and others. Expressed by some was the question on the minds of many, what happens after Tiger Woods?
Players on the PGA Tour also recognize the challenge Tiger currently has to get back to his previous form. Paul Goydos isn’t one who rushes to judgment in the case of Tiger Woods. Three months ago he said it was too early to tell. He suggested waiting until Woods played courses that he historically dominated like – Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, and Firestone. Looks like that didn’t work out too well. The PGA Championship starts on Thursday August 12 on a links styled course along Lake Michigan and no one is counting him out. After all, he is still the number one golfer in the world.