- - Thursday, June 1, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The mugshot photo of Tigers Woods after his arrest in Florida on charges of driving while under the influence could have likely passed for any number of gold course owners and golf community developers across America — broken and bankrupt after building under the influence of the Tiger Woods golf era.

Like Tiger, golf in America has weakened considerably since the days when Tiger was the pick against the field in any PGA tournament. More than 800 golf courses have closed nationwide over the past decade, according to a report by Bloomberg.

And, like Tiger, some of the owners of those courses appear to have become desperate, with a rash of clubhouse fires over several years on bankrupt developments locked into the existence of the gold course as part of the agreement with homeowners.

Others are in battles with their homeowners over trying to find ways to use the land surrounding their homes for something other than golf — a losing proposition.

Yes, if you took a photo of any number of golf course developers over the past 10 years, it might look like Tiger Woods under the influence.

The Tiger boom has gone bust — and that goes for both the former golf great’s personal life and the Midas touch he once wielded in the business world

It’s almost as if the Tiger Woods era never happened.

Reportedly, the number of participants in the game is down more than 20 percent since 2003. Nike, one of the giants in the sporting goods business, has gotten out of the golf business.

In 2015, Men’s Journal ran an article called, “The Death of Golf,” with a photo of a tombstone illustrating the title.’

“During the boom, most of those 20-somethings who were out hacking every weekend were out there because of one man: Tiger Woods,” the article stated. “Golf’s heyday coincided neatly with Tiger’s run of 14 major golf championships between 1997 and 2008. If you listen to golf insiders, he’s the individual most to blame for those thousands of Craigslist ads for used clubs. When Tiger triple-bogeyed his marriage, dallied with porn stars and seemingly misplaced his swing all at once, the game not only lost its best player; it also lost its leading salesman. The most common answer given by golf industry types when asked what would return the game to its former popularity is “Find another Tiger.”

Tiger Woods — and golf — are both lost, their eyes glazed over, their frazzled hair thinning, and not even an ESPN photoshop can change that.

It turns out that the debate about who was greater — Tiger or Jack Nicklaus, who still holds the majors record at 18 career victories, three more than Tiger — was not the most important comparison. The real contest, it turns out, was between Tiger and Arnold Palmer — and Arnie is the clear winner.

Palmer had much more of an impact on the game than Tiger, truly creating lasting change, with “Arnie’s Army” and his marketing deals. “When he (Palmer) came on television, it was a mix made in heaven,” Nick Price told the Augusta Chronicle last year, upon the death of Palmer at the age of 87. “Arnold Palmer, television and golf. Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus obviously did a lot, but it was Arnold who had that magnetism that brought everyone together.”

Tiger should have been the second coming of Palmer and more. He came along at the time when television was taking a giant leap into the sports network business, at a time when sports marketing was booming. And, of course, Tiger was different. He was a golf star of color. He had it all.

But Arnie was never beaten with his golf clubs by his wife in the driveway of his home, or then exposed as a serial womanizer, from porn stars to pancake waitresses. And Arnie’s body never turned on him like it did for Tiger — which happened to coincide with the arrest of his Dr. Feelgood, Anthony Galea, in 2009 on charges of providing his athlete clients with performance-enhancing drugs.

Tiger hasn’t been the same since Galea and his magic drugs have been taken off the market, with multiple back surgeries and now his DUI arrest, which he claimed was a result of using a mixture of prescription drugs.

Tiger was found by police sleeping in his banged-up Mercedes in Jupiter, Fla., around 3 a.m. Monday morning, reportedly incoherent and clearly, like the game he once raised to new heights, damaged.

That wasn’t just Tiger Woods‘ mugshot. That was the face of golf

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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