“No one is bigger than the game.”  This is a famous quote from sport that is highly recognized amongst many who have devoted their lives to golf.  Then, “Hello world” appeared on the scene. As Tiger Woods played the game for a period of 7-8 years at a level perhaps higher than any predecessor, we were not only witnessing greatness, but history. He had no competition when he was playing his “B” game, let alone his “A” game. Yes, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson conquered occasionally, but suffice it to say their respective stars and legacies would have shone far brighter be it not for Tiger’s presence. “Tiger-proofing” golf courses came in style; purses and TV ratings went ballistic; Nike launched  itself into the golf industry the moment Tiger donned the swoosh, and golf became cool from kids to great-grandmothers.  Nary would a minute pass without a Tiger update during tournament telecasts. Then, his public fall from grace, only to be followed with less than “Tiger-like” results, to serious signs of Tiger will never be the same. If Tiger is not the same, how will the game remain healthy?  Tiger is golf. The Golf Channel is even referenced as The Tiger Channel by some.  Sponsors’ dollars will dry up, purses will drop, and tournaments will be forced to dissolve. Tell us it isn`t true! Fast forward to 2015…the year that saved golf?  Or, in other words and punctuation, the year that saved golf!  One could argue Tiger`s 2000 season with three major wins and nine overall victories is the best ever.  One could also argue no one has ever come closer to winning the modern Grand Slam than Jordan Spieth this past season.  One could also make the claim 2015 is/was a defining year in golf. First there was Old Tom, then Harry, Bobby, Byron, “Slammin” Sam, The “Hawk” – otherwise known as Ben – Arnie and his “Army,” Jack, and finally Tiger.  These were the icons of the game. Yes, there was a supporting cast with other excellent players, with some in between generations.  However, these players helped define the game.  What they all held in common was they were actors on a stage. We will never see another Jack Nicklaus, or, who will be the next Jack?  Then Tiger came along.  Few have ever asked who will be the next Tiger, because no one thought it possible, probably because Tiger’s talent and exploits had never before been seen or even fathomed.  Once again, enter 2015.  If Tiger did anything for golf, it was to develop a mindset and confidence amongst the youth of today that has instilled the following attitude: “If he can do it, so can I.”  Athletes are flocking to golf; hence, the journey toward greatness for our present and future stars continues and always will. We are at the dawn of a new era.  The fourth Great Triumvirate. First, there was Harry Vardon, John H. Taylor and James Braid, followed by Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.  Later, we were spoiled with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.  Barring injuries, we will see Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth become the next holders of this unique title. Every player has their respective place within the game, their legacy, their grandeur and stories of folklore, yet no one is irreplaceable.  Golf, the gentleman’s game, trumps all.  It’s just too beautiful a stage with a forever-changing and compelling play.
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