All Of the Tiger Effects On Display At PGA Championship

“The Tiger Effect” has many different definitions

With Tiger Woods once more in contention to possibly add to his list of major championships, this time at the PGA Championship at Bellerive, people have been talking quite a bit about the Tiger Effect.

Newcomers to Tiger Woods during his comeback might be unfamiliar with the term. It has several definitions.

The Tiger Effect: n. A phenomenon wherein more people are interested in golf because of Tiger Woods

That video you saw when you opened this article was the crowd at the Valspar Championship that gathered around Tiger Woods.

Many people who went to Innisbrook that weekend went there specifically for Tiger. It was enough to make a giant resort question whethey they could handle the event. As it turned out, they pulled it off with room to spare, but the crowds were enormous.

The size of the galleries this week at Bellerive has been a common source of praise, with some calling it the largest golf crowd they have ever seen. There is an energy we can see through the television.

While it is a bit early for television ratings, the response on Twitter seems a bit louder than a normal golf tournament as well. “Tiger Woods is doing stuff” has become a common statement. With no football to watch, and Tiger in contention, sports fans have embraced the PGA.

Is it real? Yes, at times at the expense of a great field that has emerged in his absence.

The Tiger Effect: n. A change in the length and overall difficulty of golf courses since the late 1990s.

The 500+ yard par 4 has only recently become a thing. The difference in some of the Tour’s common courses—TPC Sawgrass, Augusta National, Copperhead, Bay Hill, and others—is pretty noticeable. Tee boxes have been moved back. Par 5s have been converted into par 4s instead. Much of this was done under the label of “Tigerproofing” at one point.

Newer courses, such as Erin Hills and Chambers Bay, play longer than older courses, especially when each of them hosted the US Open. To some degree, this is a result of better golf balls and better golf clubs that simply generate more distance on their own, but it’s no coincidence that this trend began during the rise of Tiger Woods.

Is it real? In part, but modern equipment has a lot to do with it as well. That trend also started around the same time the first of the modern drivers was put out on the market.

The Tiger Effect: n. When the leaders at a golf tournament falter, seemingly intimidated by the presence of Tiger Woods on the leaderboard.

This definition is the one that the tweets earlier in this article are referring to.  There is a belief that Tiger intimidates the other golfers when he moves up a leaderboard and causes them to falter.

Woods had a pretty good moving day on Saturday, with a third round lead that dropped from -10 to -12. Gary Woodland couldn’t run away with it. Rickie Fowler started the round at -8 and stayed steady, finishing at -9. Woods’ 66 was tied for the second lowest round of the day behind Adam Scott’s second straight 65. He started the round six shots off the lead and finished four strokes shy. He is in a position where he could win the tournament with a good day and a little luck.

This might not have been the case, until leader Brooks Koepka bogeyed 14 and 15, momentarily faltering with his typically reliable driver. Two quick bogeys explain Tiger’s entire gain on the lead in the third round.

It is really only narrative that associates something like this with being intimidated by the crowd around nearby Tiger Woods. Woods was struggling on the back nine just to save par. He did exactly that, getting nine of them on the back to stay steady. The only real intimidating roar came on 17, when his second shot rolled pin-high on the green on the par 5. Unfortunately, Woods missed his eagle and birdie putts, and anyone who was worried after that roar would have heard the corresponding moans of disappointment.

This could be put to the test on Sunday, with the world’s most famous golfer in his iconic red drawing a larger crowd than Koepka’s pairing.

Is it real? It may have been at one point. As for whether it is today, we will see more on Sunday.

The Tiger Effect: n. Tour pros spending more time at the gym, focusing on fitness, and adopting more thorough practice routines.

Tiger Woods hit a drive yesterday that carried about 290 yards. It came to a stop well over 300 yards from the tee box.

When he was first coming onto the scene, those drives were shockingly long. Nobody hit that way at the time, and drives of that distance were rare. Now the field contains golfers like Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and leader Brooks Koepka who regularly hit the ball even longer. Many pros these days average above 300 yards.

This is a PGA field built in Tiger’s image. Many of them grew up wanting to be like Tiger Woods, or came to golf because of him. It was only natural that they would follow his example of keeping in top shape in order to play like nobody had ever played before.

This is the truest test of Tiger Woods’ comeback. He’s playing against a field that, through following his example, has taken away some of his advantages. He never played against a field that learned from him before. People keep waiting for Tiger to be “all the way back.” What if he already is, but the field is simply better than it was when he was able to dominate it?

Is it real? Yes. Remember the days where PGA pros were the go-to example of pro athletes that stretched the definition of athlete?

The Tiger Effect: n. Forgetting that Woods is not leading a given tournament, because few people are talking about the five men ahead of him on the leaderboard.

Brooks Koepka has been overshadowed in both of the US Opens he has won by golfers with higher profiles. He is the name that causes people to lose trivia games on their phones.

He doesn’t have a buddy-buddy relationship with his caddie and everyone else in golf the way Jordan Spieth does. He doesn’t do the worm on a driving range like Phil Mickelson in that commercial that cannot be unseen. He isn’t married to the daughter of a sports legend, he doesn’t have a story about his dad betting on him to win the US Open, and there are no pictures of him diving off the side of a yacht.

Brooks Koepka is the model example of how golf has changed in the last twenty years, and how poorly-marketed the field it created has been. As golfers’ worth is generally measured to the public in major championships, Koepka is more decorated than Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Dustin Johnson, Tom Kite, Francis Ouimet, and Sergio Garcia. He has as many major championships as Greg Norman, Johnny Miller, John Daly, Fuzzy Zoeller, Ben Crenshaw, and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Rickie Fowler, current “best golfer to never win a major”, sits at -9, three strokes away. He’ll be playing with Jon Rahm, a 23 year old from Spain.

Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.