Tiger Effect

Tiger Woods Effect on the Game of Golf

Tiger Woods Effect on GolfI’m not foolish enough to think I’m pointing out anything profound here in this piece, re: Tiger’s effect on the game of golf. You know it, I know it and Tiger knows it. But, I’ve always been a numbers guy and I thought it would be of at least a little interest to highlight some of the amazing changes around the great game since Tiger came a long and became a household name.

Let’s take a look at this from the analytical point of view, we’ll have a little fun and we’ll throw in a little feel as well. In my opinion Tiger has changed the game in 3 major categories Tour Money, Globalization and Talent Level.

Don’t forget to watch the Tiger Highlight Video at the end of the post. The US Open Shots with the Broken Leg and the unbelievable chip at the Masters! Just amazing!

Nike and Tiger Sign historic dealTiger turned pro in 1996 and immediately made a splash with massive endorsement deals with American Express and Nike Golf. Now, it may sound very normal to the younger golf fan that Nike is in the golf game. However, this wasn’t the case in 1995. In 1995 Nike was very much a newcomer to the game of golf, they pretty much bet the farm on Tiger when they made this move. From what I remember they gave him a $50 million deal. Needless to say this had a major effect on endorsements, the average tour player is not only cleaning up in prize money but, Million Dollar equipment deals are now small-time.

How Much Are Tour Players Earning

Let’s talk about tour money for a minute, I decided to break this chart into 5 year increments so you can see the drastic change over the specified time period 1985 – 2010:

Tiger has Made the PGA Tour Much WealthierIn 1985 Curtis Strange was the top money leader on tour, he won 3 times and he earned a total of $542,321. In 1985 he was the only player on tour to earn in excess of $500,000. The Inflation calculator to the left would indicate that normal rates on inflation would have put Curtis Strange’s $500k at $1.013 million in todays terms. That is a 100% increase but the Tiger Effect has created GREATER THAN 1,000% inflation of winnings on Tour.

Take a look at this chart and you will see that drastic spike in winnings after 1995. This chart shows the number of players who earned greater than $500,000 and the number of players who earned over $1,000,000 in the given years. The pre-Tiger era between 1985 and 1995 was loaded with some of the greatest players of all time including Payne Stewart, Tom Watson, Ray Floyd, Mark O’Meara, Tom Kite, Paul Azinger and Greg Norman. I think it would be safe to say that in this Post Arnold and Nicklaus but pre-Tiger era Norman had the most profound effect on the game globally.

Now, I mentioned that Norman was a worldwide household name in golf land just prior to the Tiger Woods era. Aside from a couple well documented collapses at Augusta he was winning everything in sight. He was playing the US tour with just about the same frequency that Tiger was during his reign at the top. He was a very marketable face and name, he had a good nick-name “The Shark” and he was one of the first, other than Gary Player, to tout healthy living in the game of golf. So, worldwide presence, major victories, 20 wins on the US tour, 71 victories outside the US, good looking guy, great nick-name, why didn’t he do for golf what Tiger did?

I want to highlight Norman because he was the superstar and he was the pre-eminent name in golf just prior to Woods. Did he create the gateway for Tiger? Did he loosen up the wallets of equipment endorsements? Did he loosen up the corporate dollars? Maybe, but he didn’t create young golfers and he didn’t get non-golfers…golfing.

Most important to the almighty dollar discussion was the fact that he didn’t earn any MONEY! In 1996 Greg Norman became the first player on tour to win $10,000,000 in his career. Norman went on to earn over $14 million on tour but let’s take a look at that “First over $10 million” fact. Norman hit the 10 mill mark in 1996…in the year 2000 just 4 years later Tiger won $9,200,000 in a single year. This didn’t take 10 years or 20 years it only took 4 years for someone to make as much money in a single year as one of the greatest golfers of all time earned in his entire career!

Tiger's Career Compared to Greg Norman'sNow, I wanted to share this graphic I created with you but I want to make a couple things clear. I don’t want anyone to think that I am diminishing Norman’s career at all and I specifically don’t want anyone to think that I am diminishing Brian Gay’s career at all. I am simply pointing out the amazing things that Tiger Woods has accomplished particularly pertaining to the effect he had on the ability for others to make massive amounts of money. You will see in this chart, 3 career totals next to each other, Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Brian Gay.

I’m not saying Brian Gay is a nobody, obviously he’s not, somehow he has been able to earn as much money in his career as Greg Norman did! I think you would have to admit that if most people, myself included, bumped into Brian Gay at the grocery store and started a conversation with him, they would have absolutely no clue they were speaking to someone who is on the verge of eclipsing Greg Norman’s career earnings mark.

I only pick Brian Gay out of the crowd here because, he got started on tour right around when Tiger did and when Norman was exiting. This combined with the fact he was on the career earnings list next to Norman makes him the subject of this demo. Sorry Brian!

Tiger Caused Globalization of Golf

Tiger's Effect on World Golf TalentI’m not going to spend too much time on this part of the Tiger Effect. I think it has been very well documented that golf is sky-rocketing in Asia, the Middle East, South and Central America and Australia. The most profound part of the world in terms of growth in specifically talent is the European Tour. As I write this the Top 4 players on earth and 6 of the Top 10 are Europeans. There is a simple and fundamental reason why this is the case. Their top players are better than ours right now. It is easy to banter about how the World Golf Rankings are skewed to International Play, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t I don’t care because when I look at the top players in the index they are by far the best!

Europe holds the Top 4, they hold 6 of the Top 10 and 11 of the Top 21. When I look at this list and see Phil Mickelson and Tiger in there hogging two spots in the top 10, I can’t help but feel that maybe the World Golf Rankings are skewed towards the US? You tell me?

Back on The Tiger Effect. I am well aware that Europe developed the game of golf to the game it is today. They have been playing golf in or near its current form in Scotland for the last 600 years. OK, then please explain why it took a GREAT US PLAYER named Tiger Woods to make their tour viable? The European Tour was nothing more than an afterthought when I started watching golf almost 20 years ago. The Asian and South African Tours were just as relevant as the European Tour was. The only reason European players were even known at all was because of the Ryder Cup. There were a few standouts Nick Faldo specifically but really that was pretty much it back prior to Woods?

With all these hundreds of years of golf history, only in the last 10 to 15 years has the European Tour gained relevance? Now that it is relevant and the courses they are playing don’t resemble local muni’s, suddenly these guys are waking up and dominating.  Is this because of Tiger’s amazing effect on the globalization and popularity of golf? Was Tiger able to take 600 years of history and finally show them how to capitalize, in only 15 years? If so then I think that the world in general should all send this guy a Thank You card.

Tiger’s Effect on Scoring and Skill Level in Golf

This is the Tiger Effect that I feel has had the most profound effect on the game of golf. The fact is that the skill level around the world has sky-rocketed. Some if this is demonstrated in the graph a couple of paragraphs down and some of it is just plain feel. The feel part is this. In the early 1990’s when I started playing golf, it was absolutely impossible to find anyone my age to play with. I didn’t have any golf buddies under the age of 45, keep in mind that I was in my late teens and early 20’s. Not only could I not find anyone to play with but the people my age that I did see on the course and at the practice facility I worked at S*UCKED. Young talent at that point was very much a hard thing to find, it existed but it was rare.

Young Golfers are Much More Talented Since Tiger WoodsFast forward to today. Last summer I was at a local 9 hole course and I got paired with two kids of high school age, one was 17 and one was 18. They didn’t warm up, no range and no putts. The first hole is a short par 4 of approximately 290 yards. The wind is always in your face and when I pummel a driver I’m lucky to have a 30 or 40 yard pitch. The 17 year old put the ball over the green and the 18 year old put it on the fringe, off the tee. This course isn’t the toughest course on earth but it’s a decent little 9 hole par 36 challenge. These kids are casual players, it’s not like they were being recruited by Georgia Tech or anything. The younger of the two shot 37 and the 18 year old shot 39. THANK YOU TIGER.

This mockery of the game is not just exclusive to these two young kids, it has become the norm. I know what you’re thinking and I know that you will say it is because of equipment. Well, I’m not stupid and I know that equipment has absolutely positively changed the game forever. But, back in 1993 you could give the best high-school player I knew a 2011 R11, matching Taylor Made Irons, an Odyssey DART Putter and a sleeve of PROV1-X and they couldn’t shoot 50 on that course. MOST IMPORTANLTY that course would not have existed if Tiger Woods hadn’t.

Did you register that last comment? That course would not have existed if Tiger hadn’t. The research information I could find on this topic stated that there were approximately 14,000 golf courses in America in 1995. In 100 years of golf course building in America we averaged about 140 courses a year. From 1995 through 2008 we added something in the range of 4,000 golf courses or 307 new courses each year. WOW! In Tiger’s first thirteen years, the United States added 29% of it’s all time golf course supply. That is pretty amazing.

Tiger Woods is responsible for better equipmentThis amazing demand for golf, the same demand that built all those courses, has driven the demand for BETTER EQUIPMENT! The equipment will only achieve what the market allows it to! Now, I’m not saying that Tiger Invented Titanium don’t get me wrong. But it is a fact that if there was no market to spend $400 on a driver and $900 on a set of Callaway Irons and $58 on a sleeve of golf balls then the very equipment that made everyone better wouldn’t have existed.

The market had to be there and it had to be a larger slice of the population than fat white guys. It also had to be a global market, not just a demographic market, in order to sustain the amount of R&D that goes into this equipment today.

Back on the talent thing, I don’t have to tell you that the world of young golf talent has benefited immensely from The Tiger Woods Effect. We have seen young players become active in a sport that for hundreds of years was dominated by fat white guys, this is great but; Tiger has actually created a much deeper talent base on tour as well.

Take a look at this graphic. This graphic demonstrates the total number of players on the PGA Tour who for any given year since 1991 had a season long scoring average under 71. Here is the important thing to point out. We just discussed Tiger’s effect on bringing golf to young golfers. What you will notice in this graphic is that the number of tour players who had a scoring average under 71 changed very little between 1991 and 2005.

I point this out because if the argument is going to be made that it’s all equipment then we should have seen a huge increase between 1991 and 2005. This was the era that brought Titanium and high-performance golf balls.

Graph showing How Tiger has effected scoring on Tour

We didn’t see that huge increase in number of tour players with a lower scoring average during the equipment era? Why Not?

Well, we mentioned it earlier. The crop of young Tiger Worshippers had a gestation period. The 14 year old who watched Tiger win his first Green Jacket BY 12 STROKES and set an all-time Masters Record by going south of par by 18 SHOTS in 1997 was all grown up by 2005! That young, impressionable NON-GOLFER became a player.

When the young talent started to pop up on the secondary tours here in the US and around the world in 2005 everyone was forced to pick up the game. Suddenly everyone on tour is in shape, everyone’s eating right, fitness vans, swing coaches on the range, sports psychologists, I think you get it. When the Tiger Effect had a chance to set in everyone had to pick it up and this is demonstrated right here in this graph.

The number of players who achieved a season-long scoring average under 71 was mostly static from 1991 with 71, to 2005 with 78. Between 2005 and 2010 that number ballooned to 129 players with a scoring average under 71.

Further supporting the idea that Tiger made the scores better by demanding a higher level of competition and adding to the idea that it wasn’t just equpiment, I would ike to share this graphic with you. What we see here is that golfers have consistently been gaining distance on tour. This said it is easy to just pass it off as equipment is adding distance thus shortening golf courses and making it easier to shoot lower scores.

I would argue that distance hasn’t been the answer over the last 5 years. We discussed it earlier when I demonstarted the number of players with a Season Long Scoring Average under 71. Well, in the graphic below you will see that distance has been level over the last 5 years among the longest hitters and I showed you earlier that the number of players with a Scoring Average under 71 has sky-rocketed.

Driving Distance on Tour Longer than Ever

Tiger has given us a great gift, a gift that nobody else in history was quite able to give us. I am completely conscious of what Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan gave us,  it doesn’t matter how long we keep going with this list. NOBODY and I mean NOBODY was able to add to their game quite the way TIGER DID! Tiger Woods single-handedly grew awareness for the game we love and that awareness lifted the entire Golf World. Thank You Tiger.

I’ll leave you with this, what if Tiger hadn’t existed? Where would US golf be? Where would World Golf be? Would the course you play at today still be filled with trees?

I am interested to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts.

14 thoughts on “Tiger Effect”

  1. I read your piece, with much interest, and it was a great analysis of the effect Tiger has had on the golf world since 1996. There’s no question you’ve made a good case for sending Tiger that Thank You note. Prize money is skyrocketing and guys like Brian Gay are millionaires. But Tiger was so good that he may have discouraged more people than not from taking up the game. And he’s had almost no effect on attracting minority kids to start playing. The reason for this, I think, is that he had such insignificant competition during his 12 year reign. Tiger was dominant in a much more definitive way than Hogan or Palmer or Nicklaus was dominant. When I took up golf in the early 60’s as a teen, Palmer was the inspiration but there were at least half dozen others who could beat him. And Jack was never so dominant that he couldn’t be beaten. Tiger did become virtually unbeatable. Sponsors threw a lot of money his way, which of course has benefited many other pros. But the real barometer of success is growing the game with new amateurs and pros. And the game is not growing enough to sustain the number of golf courses that have been built. Courses are going belly up, because older golfers are leaving the sport, and not enough juniors are taking to the game, especially minorities. There are many reasons golf is losing popularity, which I will cover in a separate post. You are absolutely correct to say that Tiger raised the level of skill, at least among professionals.
    Woods’ troubles in the last 15 months have certainly not helped the problem. Just as Mr. Clinton didn’t help his legacy, Tiger torpedoed his own. His image was severely tarnished and he is no longer the role model who once did draw people to the game, either to play or to watch.
    Anyway, I appreciate your comments, Brett, and hope for a continued dialogue.

  2. Hi there that was a fantastic write up you have done, you are correct tiger went through a period where he was virtually unbeatable plAyers like phil mickleson David Duvall and others were playing second fiddle for a long time ,but my concern is that when tigers career took a back seat due to family problem no other golfer dominated why was that .even to this day Rory and others are no grabbing at the chance to dominate

  3. One other point I want to make,I think the rules in golf need to be changed to get to world no1 without winning a major just seems wrong there should be something put in place preventing this from happening ie Luke Donald has lots of top ten finishes but no major to his name

    1. Hey Richard,

      Thanks for the feedback. Well, of course nobody dominated while Tiger was gone. Tiger created parity, he created the ultimate golf incubator around the world. So many young players found something in golf that had not been there in the past.

      I do have to respectfully disagree about Luke Donald’s Number 1 ranking. Every professional tournament has a purse, the purse rewards the winner with the most money, number 2 with the second most money, number 3 with the third highest check and so on.

      Luke Donald was able to do something that nobody has ever been able to do. He was rewarded with more purse money than anyone else on both major tours. Every single player that tee’d it up had the same chance and nobody was more effective at finishing higher, on an aggregate basis than…Luke Donald.

      If he had been sixth on the Euro Tour and first on the PGA Tour, maybe, I would agree with you….but.

      Thanks to Tiger, he (almost) won more in 1 season ($13,000,000) than Greg Norman did in his entire career.

      Thanks for the input!

  4. It’s obvious the money won is all relevant to the era played in. Tiger dominated the sport in a way that even had Jack Nicklaus coining the exact words Bobby jones used with him “this kid plays a game i’m not familiar with”. It’s tragic that such a awe inspiring career has been tainted through his own self inflictions. All of us were just waiting for the day when he would surpass Jack’s 18 majors and solitify himself as the greatest of all time. I am very uncertain that is possible now. Rory will win his share from Tiger and any number of young guns out there could snatch a major victory. Unfortunately the “eye of the tiger” doesn’t seem to strike fear in these young players as it once did. It will be kicked around every which way with strong opinions on both sides who was the better player Nicklaus or Woods.? Given the changes to the golf courses today not to mention the clubs and balls it would have been something to behold seeing these two golfing Gods go head to head……… if only Jack and Tiger had been in the same era… darn!

  5. This is a fun and fascinating piece, which, because is both an historical and economic analysis is as relevant on this date (2013, May 14) as when you initially researched, analyzed, reflected, wrote and published it. Have you considering updating this consideration, since it is now 3 years old, Tiger is again dominating, the Euros’s power has waned a bit, notwithstanding the neurotic media’s incessant water chumming for rivalry where there is none, etc? You’ve done such a fine job with this article perhaps you could revisit it for an updated paragraph or two? [Just don’t change it yet. I want to save this page as is for off-line reading.]
    Thank you again.

  6. Where are the stats to support the massive growth in Asia, North America, South America, Middle East and Australia. Hard facts would be beneficial with proper cite documentation. The first comment is most appropriate. Awareness of the game was raised for sure and the touring guys benefited but what about the local golf course? Where are the throngs of actual players coming to the game? They are absolutely NOT in the US. Your question at the end may have relevance. That is, what if he didn’t come on the scene? Maybe less courses would have been built – most were built because the expectation was that baby boomers and early retiring X-Gens would be taking up golf…..that never happened. The housing boom post 1970s-early 1980s recession brought on the model where you build houses around a golf course to bring home buyers to roost. They bought homes but not necessarily golf. The numbers don’t support anything different. Maybe more would have vacated the game then would have if Tiger didn’t bring attention to golf. That can’t be measured of course however I believe the biggest segment of the population to drop off are the older golfers. The recession has a huge impact on discretionary dollars and has just as much an influence as any on lack of play in recent years. The questions are these: Why did players leave the game? Why aren’t players interested in taking it up? The Y Gen don’t have the patience or the attention span for it. This is a big chuck of Tiger’s peer group. The other chunk is the X Gen population. Why aren’t they playing any more? Lots to chew on.

  7. I am aware that Africa does not get a lot of mention when golf is the subject of discussion. South Africa does really well in the game and has been doing so for a long time. But as a Nigerian I know that over 40,000 men and women started playing golf in Nigeria, me included, because of the Tiger Woods phenomenon. It is clearly beyond argument that to find another individual who can do what Tiger Woods did for golf in 15 years would be a very tall order.

  8. Tiger most certainly changed the game. Not only did he encourage minorities to play golf but girls as well. Tiger Woods is/was the most recognized sports figure in the world. He influenced every part of the game and that is beyond obvious

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