Bubba Watson stands over his par putt on the 18th green, he gives it a firm tap and knocks it in, sealing his second major victory. The crowd roars in excitement, but something is missing.
Even before Bubba Watson stepped to 18th tee, it was a foregone conclusion that the coveted green jacket would be placed on his back for a second time in three years. However, it is not his back that the golf world needs to restore the trademark roar that echos through the trees at Augusta National.
That back was noticably absent at Augusta, as it goes through rehab from surgery that hopefully repaired a pinched nerve. As Tiger Woods nurses his latest ailment back to health, the golf world seems hushed as it awaits the return of one Eldrick Woods. Despite his recent struggles on and off the golf course, it remains clear that Tiger is the PGA’s biggest attraction, and when he doesn’t show up, no one comes to watch.
The potential storylines heading into the final round surrounding Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixth was not enough to peak the interest of the viewers as the final round of the Masters recorded an underwhelming 7.8 rating, which is a 24 percent decrease from last year’s final round and the lowest mark in ten years. No back nine drama, Rory McIlroy or Phil Mickelson all play big roles in the ratings drop, but no one can deny the fact that all interest in watching The Masters was lost after Tiger announced he would be missing it due to back surgery. And with his recent rash of injuries, it seems that his absence could potentially become more a recurring theme. The PGA desperately needs to find a new face of golf before it slips into complete irrelevance.
I know I don’t stand alone when I say that the PGA needs a superstar to emerge and take the torch from Tiger. With the likes of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, the PGA isn’t devoid of capable superstars but no one seems to want to take the crown. Or maybe no one is capable of the sheer brilliance that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing for the last fifteen years. I doubt anyone will ever dominate the tour the way Tiger has for the last fifteen years but the parity of late has been unbelievable. Since Tiger’s last win at the ’08 U.S. Open, there have been a total of sixteen first time major winners (including Watson & McIlroy) only one back to back winner (Padraig Harrington in ’08 at the Open & PGA Championship). Rory McIlroy, the man who we thought was the heir apparent to the throne hasn’t won since the ’12 PGA and has been an enigma since his collapse in the final round of the ’11 Masters.
The parity and the new faces of golf would be a refreshing sight in any other sport, but not golf. The tour is lacking a face when Tiger is out and doesn’t appear to be any closer to a facelift. Tiger has set the bar impossibly high and with everyone taking their turns at winning, no one is going to come close for a long time. Until the day Tiger returns to prominence, the roar of the PGA is momentarily silenced.