With the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill commencing today, there’s been a lot of chatter about Arnold Palmer’s long-lasting footprint on golf and the Tour. Although Tiger Woods is already considered golf’s greatest player, Palmer is undoubtedly golf’s greatest icon and ambassador. PGATour.com posed an interesting question: Will Golf See Another Tiger Or Another Arnie?
Arguably, Tiger has done leaps and bounds to popularize golf for the masses. He’s exciting to watch and he revolutionized the conventional image of a professional golfer. By that, I mean he is golf’s modern day celebrity. In fact, Tiger transcended merely being a professional golf superstar; he has become the world’s most famous athlete.
However, let us not forget, those who paved the way. Palmer has the unmatchable charisma to inspire fans, players and everyone around him. You can see it in his smile, his sparkling eyes, and when he tips his hat – he is passionate about the game like no other. He’s known to acknowledge the crowds of cheering fans – because he genuinely appreciates the support, but he also understands how important they are for the Tour. And that is why Palmer will always be considered The King.
Tiger and Arnie clearly have a mutual respect for each other, but their personalities on the course could not be more contrasting. Tiger generally puts on an exhilirating performance, whether it’s sinking a clutch putt on the 18th hole to win a tournament or winning the US Open on one leg. His playing style and attitude on the course is intense. He is 110% focused on his game and the next shot. He is detached from what’s going on around him, but he will play to the crowd with his signature fist-pump. Otherwise, he’s all business. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that’s his style and golf is a game where intense concentration is imperative. But, would it hurt if Tiger were a little less detached and aloof from the fans?
There’s a void that needs to be filled in respect to a superstar player who has both charm and fan attention. I would say guys like Anthony Kim, Stuart Appleby, Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Rocco Mediate, Davis Love, Zach Johnson, Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvy, Fred Funk, Rocco Mediate, Ernie Els, Sean O’Hair, Jason Gore, Mike Weir (and the list goes on) are some of the more likeable on Tour. However, these guys don’t have the brand name and celebrity status that Tiger does. Without a doubt, Tiger has achieved a ton for the greater good of the game, but think about what a friendlier, more affable persona could achieve. I’m not saying he should pretend to be someone he’s not, but there are some big shoes to fill for this current generation of Tour players. So, the question is who has both the starpower and the talent to fill them. It’d sure be nice if it were Tiger.