Altvater: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy: A beautiful friendship?Written by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Tiger Woods has been the No. 1 attraction in golf for a long time. He was trained from the crib to be a predator. His father, Earl Woods, taught Tiger to always be the alpha male. He kept his adversaries at arm’s length and on the defensive.
In the past when Woods got near the lead at any golf tournament, especially a major event, opponents would cringe and fall away like autumn leaves blown from a tree
If Tiger could get a whiff of the lead he would stride down the fairway with a purpose and confidence unknown to mere mortal golfers.
Tiger has never developed friendships with his peers. Phil Mickelson and Tiger have not shared too many beers at the 19th hole. Even when David Duval was winning and No. 1 in the world, Tiger and David didn’t become bosom buddies even though they both sported the Nike Swoosh.
Woods helped to build the Nike brand in golf. Nike had shoes and shirts when Tiger signed on in 1996. He helped refine the clubs and balls that are sold in pro shops around the world today. He has been Nike Golf.
Being No. 1 in endorsement dollars is just another competition, another way to keep score. Tiger was trained to be the leader. At his peak, Tiger was earning $100 million annually in endorsement dollars with the bulk coming from Nike.
Along comes a 23-year-old kid from Ireland with a golf swing to die for. He started winning majors and garnering the attention of golf fans around the world.
One year ago in Abu Dhabi, Woods and McIlroy had the opportunity to play three rounds together and both battled for the lead. Robert Rock eventually won the 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with Rory second and Tiger falling to third.
Not too long after, McIlroy announced he would play more on the PGA Tour. At the end of 2012, it was announced that Rory would be leaving Titleist to join Nike.
Did Tiger start the wooing process to get Rory McIlroy to join the Nike family at Abu Dhabi last year?
Has Tiger accepted the fact that he may not be the main attraction in the golf world much longer and is helping to secure Nike’s future in the golf business?
The stars seem to be aligning quite nicely for young McIlroy. He and Tiger even cut a new television ad for Nike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdeD6SrQuL0
Woods is still trying to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ career major titles record. McIlroy will have something to say about that prospect over the next five years.
Tiger has moved to No. 2 in the world right behind No. 1 Rory McIroy.
Rory has won two majors over the last two years. Tiger has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Every sport needs a great rivalry to spark fan interest and stimulate growth. Rory McIlroy challenging Tiger Woods for titles over the next several years would certainly help to grow golf.
The old saying is: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Tiger is keeping his main competitor very, very close.