Tiger Woods changed golf in many different ways. Everybody knows the name Tiger Woods – fans and non-fans of golf alike. Woods rose to prominence during the late 90s and left a mark on the sport that will never be forgotten.
The way Tiger Woods changed the game is evident every time you turn on the TV, go to a tournament, or read an article about golf games. The length of the courses, the young age and athleticism of the players, and the prize funds are all results of how Woods has affected the sport.
Here are the ways Tiger Woods impacted golf as a whole:
He broke the racial barrier.
Golf should be a game for everybody, but it’s no secret that white men have dominated golf for most of the history of the sport. Until 1961, PGA rules specified that only Caucasians could be members.
After 26 years, Tiger Woods caught the attention of the world by being the first African-American to win the Masters Tournament. Though it was his talent and skill that made him remarkable, not his race, his achievements were a testimony that minority golfers could and should play this sport.
The influence of Tiger Woods’ achievement continued on. In 2017, 26% of newcomers to golf were non-Caucasians.
He increased prize funds and TV coverage for golf tournaments.
Before Tiger Woods came into the scene, professional golfers made decent money but didn’t rake in significant hauls. When Woods went pro, he changed that by signing one major endorsement deal after another.
Tiger Woods won his first major at the Masters in 1997, and the entire prize fund was $2.7 million. His share as a winner was $486,000. In 2019, the purse was $11.5 million, and Woods took home $2.07 million. Every golfer on the PGA Tour owes him a lot.
Before Woods, only ten golfers had ever grossed over $7 million, but by 2017, over 150 golfers had brought in $10 million throughout their careers.
The extraordinary increase was because of the global superstardom and the TV coverage and sponsorship deals he brought to the game. Even before Tiger Woods had his professional debut, he had already signed five-year deals with both Nike and Titleist. The Titleist deal earned him $20 million, while the Nike contract brought him $40 million.
And the reason for the increase in endorsements? It was Tiger Woods’ appeal. The crowds rooted for Tiger from the very start and showed up to see him in droves. People loved watching golf as everyone’s TV was turned to golf tournaments. And they loved it when Woods was winning. Woods was young and exciting as he walked in putts, twirled his clubs, hit big drives and recovery shots. He became a global golf superstar, photographed by everyone.
When he won the Masters in 1997, a record of 43 million viewers tuned in to watch CBS, remaining as the highest-rated find round and major of all time, the enormous viewing figures were followed by multi-million-dollar sponsorship deals, increasing the prize money for all golfers.
For the other players, this meant competing for more money. When Woods was playing, the world paid attention, and it meant other players also got more rewards.
He raised the bar on the athleticism of players.
Tiger Woods also raised the bar on the athleticism of golfers. To him, golf is a sport like any other and requires the same kind of physical training. Using weights and a combination of flexibility exercises, Woods worked out for five to six days a week in sessions that are up to three hours long.
Back then, getting fit to play golf wasn’t a usual route taken by players, but now, almost every player out on Tour is an athlete. Today’s golfers don’t just spend time practicing golf, but they dedicate a lot of time to physically preparing themselves in the gym.
He influenced a younger generation of golfers.
When Tiger Woods rose to dominate the sport, the world suddenly saw golf as something cool. Just as people who had never shown interest started watching the game, they also jumped on the bandwagon and took on golf as a sport. Enthusiasts of the sport have long understood the appeal of golf, but at the height of Woods’ career, even teenagers wanted to be like Tiger.
Woods turned pro in August 1996 when he was just 20 years old. That time, he had just completed two years at Stanford University, where he went on a full golf scholarship. At the time, most players would first complete four years of college or live a little before coming out on PGA Tour, but with a huge motivation, Woods left school early to turn professional.
After Woods proved that it was a great decision for him, a younger generation of professional golfers followed by leaving college early. Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler all completed just a year or two of college before deciding to come on Tour, while Rory McIlroy bypassed university altogether.
Youngsters looked up to him, enamored by his energy into the sport. He inspired a new generation of golfers to be better golfers and become great at golf.
Along with the rise of the number of people playing golf also came the influx of golf course development. By 2006, over 2,000 more 18-hole-equivalent golf courses in the US were built since 1996.
He “Tiger-proofed” the length of golf courses.
When Tiger Woods averaged 25 yards further than any other player off the tee, Augusta National Golf Club became worried. People have never seen a golfer like him before, and the players sensed something needed to change as the committee watched a course that’s usually played tough got ripped apart by a big-hitting newcomer.
A few years later, Augusta National was renovated and became a new course to those who used to play it. Holes were longer, fairways narrowed, tees were moved backward, trees were added to the side of several fairways. In 2006, additional difficulty was added as bunkers became deeper, and the fifth hole was made even longer.
Other golf courses followed suit. While it may have started at Augusta National, “tiger-proofing” became a term known around the world by making golf courses more difficult by adding more length, narrowing the fairways, and growing rough. The problem was Woods was still one of the longest hitters in golf, so when the course is difficult for him, it’s had for everyone else.
He made the red top and black pants an iconic golfing outfit.
Tiger Woods has always favored the color red, but on his first Masters in 1997, the entire world recognized his Sunday signature. Every Sunday, his signature outfit is a red shirt and black pants – an iconic golf look that transcends his own game. Though we can’t say that Tiger Woods is the most fashionable golfer in the history of golfing fashion , he had an iconic look imitated by lots of younger golfers. Even amateurs who mean business on the golf course can intimidate their foursome with that same color combination.
Though Tiger also wore other colors and a little bit more pattern – thanks to his contract with Nike, who makes TW-specific gear – he still stayed pretty loyal to his red and black ensemble most of the time. Click here to check out the history of Nike.