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tiger woodsCALGARY, Alta. /Troy Media/ – Not so long ago, Pat Perez would have been writing his professional death obit by criticizing Tiger Woods.

The PGA Tour is littered with people who had a golf fatwa issued on them for offering unfavourable opinions on the inscrutable Woods. Ask Stephen Ames.

But as Jason Isbell sings, those were different days.

A journeyman pro, Perez is best know for his incendiary temper on the course. In golf’s pecking order, his elevator wouldn’t get anywhere near Woods’ penthouse suite. But with the former world No. 1 golfer now struggling to restart his career after scandal and injury, Perez had no qualms in recently offering a withering assessment of Woods’ chances for a revival.

He’s got this new corporation that he started, so he’s got to keep his name relevant to keep the corporation going, Perez said on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio. He’s going to show up to a few events, he’s going to try to play. He’s gotta go out there and show the Monster Bag, he’s going to show the TaylorMade driver.

He’s going to get on TV, he’s got the Nike clothes, he’s gotta keep that stuff relevant. But the bottom line is he knows he can’t beat anybody. He knows it.

As critiques in golf go, Perez was pitiless. He’s saying that Woods knows he can’t compete anymore and is in it only for the money. Now anyone who’s seen Woods’ palatial home on Jupiter Island in Florida can tell you that Tiger is not buying at the consignment store. He has assets upon assets.

What Perez was describing is an alpha man transitioning to being the invisible man in middle age. Watching 150-pounders like Justin Thomas smash the ball 330 or 340 yards off the tee is a sobering reminder that, even if he does get off the tee box in good shape, Woods is giving up 20 or 30 yards to the young guys. In short, they’re doing to him what he did to the Tour for an astounding decade-plus.

It’s called intimidation. His withering gaze sent players heading back to their cars in fear.

Tiger’s only consolation as the Pat Perezes of the Tour savage him is that while he’s been replaced atop the leader board, none of the young hot shots can deliver the TV ratings or the media eyeballs that Woods once produced. Not Jason Day. Not Dustin Johnson. Not Jordan Spieth. Even the rumour of Tiger teeing it up is ratings Viagra for the networks.

Perez aside, the Tour still needs a healthy, competitive Woods to generate the advertiser enthusiasm it enjoyed in the 623 weeks that he topped the world rankings.

There was hope that his Nike colleague Rory McIlroy might assume the Tiger mantle when he sprang into prominence as a 20-year-old, winning majors on the course and headlines for his life off the course. The powerful Irishman was given a stupendous contract by Nike (which is now out of everything but golf apparel) based on the hope he might be the one.

McIlroy has flashed that potential since the contract. He was clearly the best player in the world in the back half of 2016, winning the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and its $10-million prize. But just as McIlroy seemed poised to finally get a full grasp on the brass ring, he injured himself at the start of 2017. 

He has been unable to compete since then (although he did tee it up with President Donald Trump as he rehabbed an injured rib). He was a no-go last weekend in his own backyard at the Honda Championship in Palm Beach Gardens. He had to watch as Ricky Fowler, another local resident, won all the cheers as he produced an impressive win on the daunting PGA National course.

It was a missed opportunity for McIlroy and for the Tour. Rory says he’ll be ready in the next couple of weeks to make a run at winning the Masters in early April. But he’s missed valuable weeks while rivals such as Johnson, Spieth, Thomas and Fowler picked up momentum.

Still, nothing would stir the emotions of the sports world more than Woods taking his Monster Bag … and TaylorMade driver to the course where he cemented his reputation for greatness with four green jackets.

If the gods were really watching, they might arrange for a Woods/Perez pairing at Augusta. Best of three falls.

Troy Media columnist Bruce Dowbiggin is the host of podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. His career includes successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster. Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.

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