Tiger still drawing press despite Spieth's bid for history

By Steve Sell
July 14, 2015

All eyes should be on Jordan Spieth when the British Open Golf Tournament — the third leg of the grand slam — gets under way on Thursday at the The Old Course in Scotland.

Spieth already has won The Masters and U.S. Open, completing two of the four legs of the slam, which in this day and age is considered an impossibility given the depth of the professional tour. Spieth also is coming off a victory last weekend in the John Deere Classic, which included a round of 61, his professional best. He's the hottest player on the planet and well on his way to being regarded as the greatest putter in golf.

Bobby Jones is the only golfer to have accomplished the slam, but that was in a different era when golf was ruled by just a handful of players and included a different criteria. Today's slam is The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA, though The Players Championship is considered an unofficial fifth major and probably carries more weight now than the PGA.

Yet instead of Spieth dominating the airwaves and headlines in the colorful British press, the focus seems to be on Tiger Woods, who has seen his ranking fall all the way to 226 and his season has been a veritable no-show.

Woods was receiving as much or even more press than Spieth the first couple of days. Spieth should be the talk of the tournament given his play this year and the fact he's chasing history.

Even the absence of defending champion and top player Rory McIlroy is garnering more attention than Spieth. Being European, McIlroy is expected to be more in the news, but all his press now is for being silly enough to be playing soccer so close to The Open and injuring his ankle, which will sideline him indefinitely.

If there's any course where Tiger can turn it around though and conjure up his former magic, it's The Old Course. He can slap it all around and still extricate himself, though his ability to do that has diminished and his putter has been in hibernation. As much as we talk about his inability to drive accurately, his clanky putter is as much to blame for his demise. Tiger used to ALWAYS make that clutch 8- to 10-footer and now it's a 50-50 proposition.

However, he still has his ever-dwindling group of hard-core believers and if he goes off for a 66 or 67 the first day, the tournament suddenly shifts from being Spieth's slam pursuit to Tiger's bid for a 15th major, rekindling talk of him catching Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. No matter how impressive Spieth has been, it's Tiger that stirs the TV ratings and quickens golf fans' pulses. The real dream would be for Spieth and Tiger to be dueling, as that would send the needle off the charts.

My only question about the weekend is this: would it be a bigger story nationally if Spieth won his third straight major or Tiger winning his first major since 2008. My guess is the latter even though it shouldn't be. It's called the "Power of Tiger."