Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods recent feud is good for the sport of golf. In fact, it is just what the sport has been missing in recent years. Although the recent developments of this feud have not been positive publicity for the sport, there is a saying in business that no publicity is bad publicity.
This is exactly the boost that golf has been yearning in the years since Tiger Woods now infamous sex scandal. People are talking about golf once again. On last check, the feud had become the top story on Google News sports page, quite the accomplishment for a sport not often considered to be one of the main professional leagues in the United States.
Tiger Woods has been the best thing to ever happen to the sport of golf since he first took the world by storm after turning professional in 1996. Before Woods emerged as a dominant force early in his career, people had little reason to tune in and watch the golf in their free time. The sport had a reputation as boring to anyone who didn’t play the sport. This all changed when Tiger Woods first began to dominate the golfing world, people from all walks of life began to tune in and watch what he would do each and every weekend.
The sport became exciting for the first time because of Woods. His dominance seemed to be other wordly, seemingly heroic each and every time he donned his famous red shirt on Sunday as he captured yet another tournament title. Woods was the most dominant athlete in the world, corporations lined up for him to be their spokesperson, and a young generation was inspired to hit the links.
After his performance began to slip, golf received yet another boost from its prized star in 2009 when it was uncovered that he was having multiple affairs on his then wife Lindsey Vaughn. Woods took over the headlines and once again captivated the country and had people talking about golf and its star player.
Although players like Rory McIlroy overtook Woods in the World Golf Rankings after his play continued to suffer following the scandal, the popularity of other players never was able to come close to that of Tiger Woods. People still tune into golf to watch him, whether they like him or not. The value of Woods can be shown through the Vegas odds, where he is almost always the favorite to win the tournament he is in. The odds reflect where the money is, and people love betting on Woods, skewing the odds in his favor.
Most recently, Tiger Woods has found himself in headlines again, thanks to his nemesis Sergio Garcia who is currently the 14th ranked golfer in the world. The two were paired together as front runners in the Players Championship two weeks ago, and have continued their bickering since.
Just yesterday, Sergio Garcia issued an apology for an extremely insensitive racist comment he made directed towards Tiger Woods. Sergio had stated that at the annual PGA players dinner he would serve Tiger Woods fried chicken, a food stereotyped as associated with the African American population, should he be in attendance at the event. Woods responded to the comment on his Twitter page that “the comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate…”
Golf couldn’t let this story end however. Despite quickly accepting Garcia’s apology and failing to take any action in terms of punishing Garcia as of yet, which caused even more controversy to develop. They somehow managed to dig themselves an even bigger hole and throw more gasoline on the fire.
European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady gave a statement in defense of Sergio Garcia today in which he stated that “Most of Sergio’s friends happen to be coloured athletes in the United States, he is absolutely abject in his apology and we accepted it.” This story has quickly gone viral, as a Chief Executive is supposed to be more politically correct than to refer to an African American with a term from the pre-Civil Rights Movement.
However this is not going to end up as bad for golf as many experts believe. The fact of the matter is that people are once again talking about golf. The popularity of Sergio Garcia and George O’Grady will without a doubt take a hit as a result of this scandal, but people will tune in to root against Garcia each time he plays on TV.
This scandal will end up working for golf in a way that the ‘heel’ works positively for professional wrestling. Wrestling has always embraced the evil character, knowing that people will line up to boo them and watch them lose each time they step into the ring. The UFC has also joined in on this trend with fighters like Chael Sonnen becoming the evil villains of the sport. This strategy has worked marvelously for these two, and golf will also be able to reap the benefits of having prominent heels on their roster.
Tiger Woods is now joined by his nemesis Sergio Garcia as the two most polarizing figures of golf, providing the sport with the controversy it needs to consistently make headlines and get people tuning in to root against them week in and week out. Future success by these two will only fuel the fire and cause more people to pay attention to what is happening in the world of professional golf.
Although golf is widely considered to be a sport of gentleman, having people that go against that image is a way for golf to break through into the mainstream. Golfers such as Jon Daly, who’s drinking and smoking, as well as his rotund body shape, helped him earn a controversial reputation as well as a substantial following on tour, will provide Sergio Garcia with a blueprint to make this negative publicity a positive for his sport.
If the PGA can turn this feud into a lasting one, it will only keep us tuning in. Controversy captivates all of us, whether we like to admit it, and these two golfers have certainly caused plenty of it lately. I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last of this feud, and I for one am anxiously awaiting the next chapter to emerge.
By: Charlie Gille
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
The Guardian Express