Karen Crouse’s article in the NY Times is one of the most unusual feature stories published about golf in the past twenty years. Though it’s little more than a chronicle of the struggle Rory McIlroy faces in deciding which nation he will represent in the 2016 Olympics, there’s somewhat of a cryptic message the piece delivers.
Like a majority of articles focusing on the world of professional golf, Crouse’s article makes reference to Tiger Woods. Since bursting on the scene in the late ’90s, Woods has been THE face of golf and, unequivocally, the most covered person in the sport. It’s only fitting Woods’ take on McIlroy’s dilemma be included in the article.
What’s most interesting, however, isn’t the similarity between the questions surrounding McIlroy’s nationality and Woods’ ethnicity, but the idea that Tiger Woods may not be the leading man in the daytime drama that is the PGA Tour.
In Crouse’s article, Woods takes a backseat to McIlroy.
In years past, a similar piece would have used McIlroy’s quandary as merely an opening to discuss something, anything about Woods. After all, golf was Tiger’s game. Like Ruth, Jordan and Gretzky, Woods’ involvement in anything media-related meant Woods was the leading man.
Crouse’s article signifies a passing of the torch. No longer is Tiger Woods the sole name at the top of golf’s illuminating marquee. While the likes of Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Jim Furyk have always provided a subtle sense of competition in a sport mostly dominated by Woods, they were merely supporting cast members.
Because of McIlroy’s success, golf has been more competitive and entertaining, and Crouse’s article is a great indication of just how important McIlroy’s ascension is.
It’s not just Tiger’s game anymore. And that’s a really good thing.