LAST week’s broadcast ratings are out, and, as expected, the final round of the PGA Championship got a major — pun wholly intended — boost when Tiger Woods played himself into contention and became the prime focus of CBS’ Sunday coverage of the final Grand Slam event of the year. Even as the rock-star atmosphere he engendered at Bellerive highlighted his pull among the sport’s avid followers, the myriad eyeballs he attracted on the small screen served as proof of his unparalleled crossover appeal.
Certainly, there was a definite charm to seeing the best player of the previous decade, and perhaps of all time, contend in a premier stop when, not too long ago, he wasn’t physically able to swing a club. And, to be sure, his questionable fitness as a surgical veteran wound up to be just one hurdle. The other, and likely more significant, involved his recovery from one public humiliation after another. Between his exposure as a serial adulterer and as an apparent painkiller dependent, he had to endure a fall from grace unlike any other athlete with his sterling resume.
That Woods just reminded longtime habitues of the wonders he could do on the course and, more importantly, endeared himself to casual observers in a way he never did before his challenges in life. From his trials emerged a more sympathetic figure, humbled and intent on not merely restoring the luster on a name once synonymous to dominance, but on cementing a legacy with a human touch.
Indeed, the Woods that came close at the British Open and finished second at the PGA Championship was far easier to cheer for and empathize with. In his early march towards greatness, he witnessed respect. In his frailties of late, he found adulation. Only time will tell whether he can generate both from a new swath of followers, but it’s clear that he’s already at peace no matter what happens.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.