Can Tiger become TGR?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Tiger Woods announced last week that all of his business initiatives are being rolled into a new brand called TGR. How would you rate Tiger as a businessman and does his brand have enough cache to succeed against established brand icons like Palmer, Nicklaus and Norman?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I have no idea what kind of businessman Tiger is, because it seems to me his ‘brand’ has always been promoted by others… that is, sponsor companies like Nike and Rolex that his agents (IMG) have signed him up for. Palmer and Nicklaus developed their own companies much sooner in their careers, and Norman in mid-late career; of those three, I’d say Palmer and Norman have been the most successful, not that Jack’s failed by any means. I’m not sure that Tiger hasn’t launched TGR too late… at a point when nobody really cares or wants to be associated with him. But I guess that all depends on how the comeback works out.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Tiger’s brand seems to have been calculated from the start.  We all know the power of a Tiger Woods appearance, but I think for his “new” brand to reach the levels of Palmer, Nicklaus & Norman, he will have to make himself more available to media and somehow become a beloved icon, not just a dominant golfer.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Tiger Woods is an unequivocal business success. The guy pulled in $45 million this year without even stepping on a golf course! However, a huge chunk of that was from endorsements, which resulted from his successes on the golf course over a decade ago.  As to whether Tiger is a successful business MAN, the answer is not nearly as clear cut.  The Tiger Woods Foundation has done some great philanthropic things like opening the Tiger Woods Learning Centre, but it has failed in its main objective to promote the sport among inner-city youth in the US. His restaurant in Jupiter, Florida has received very mixed reviews and some citations for storing meat and seafood at unsafe temperatures. As for his design company, again both good and bad. I have heard that BlueJack National and El Cardonal, his North American designs, are both tremendous, yet his Dubai project (for which he was paid $55 million) never materialized into anything.  He’s got very experienced financial people spearheading his brand, so I think that TGR will be successful going forwards … but I don’t think he possesses nearly as much of the acumen or entrepreneurial ingenuity that made Palmer such a success away from the game.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): First, Tiger is not a businessman. He hires people to handle that end of his business for him. I’m sure he has some input but please don’t confuse that as him having any business savvy or acumen. His brand will not resonate like Palmer’s – EVER! It can’t as Arnie had the perfect storm on top of being someone who was just naturally charismatic that people in and outside of golf could easily identify with. Palmer’s philosophy was different too – he actually engaged with fans and the media, something Tiger has never done And it’s that engagement in part that helps create a brand. I’m pretty confident saying TGR won’t have the brand equity of Arnold Palmer. TGR will be a global brand similar to Nicklaus and Norman, but there’s no way it will dethrone the KING.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The game’s icons became marketing juggernauts thanks to Arnie. And they did it in their primes. Eldrick is attempting to restore a brand that is already tarnished beyond recognition by his sexcapades while off-Tour and in serial re-hab. The $20 million annual tips from NIKE (now gone) created the illusion that Eldrick’s clubs (how did that work out?) and shirts etc were somehow cool. A 40-something pimping TGR to millennials? Can’t see that working.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Virtually every major label that sponsored Tiger dropped him as a pitchman after his sexual conquests became public and his name still remains toxic to a large part of the business world. He’s more of a circus freak now than a beloved cultural icon. He never had the charm of Arnold Palmer or the integrity of Jack Nicklaus. And both of those players capitalized on their fame early in their careers and got intimately involved in their “side” businesses. Norman virtually quit professional golf to build his brand and brings the same competitive zeal and passion to them now that he used so successfully on the course. Maybe if Tiger fully dedicates his time to business he can build his brand as the others have done but what is he known for? I wouldn’t drink a Tiger wine or eat in a Tiger restaurant or even play a Tiger-designed golf course. Right now he’s doing the hokey pokey with both golf and business and the sad fact for him is that golf is doing fine without him and there’s no business that covets him.

Woods was doing the media rounds to launch his new brand and made a couple of weird comments, notably that he only had one regret in his life so far (not graduating from Stanford) and that he thought he would still beat Jack Nicklaus’ major record. What’s your take on those statements?

Deeks: I thought they were weird too.  No regrets for being a serial philanderer and ruining a marriage?  No regrets for being arrogant, ignoring fans, making few friends? As for the Nicklaus majors comment, well, okay, fine, good luck with that. Perhaps in a few years he’ll admit to regret that he didn’t break the record before he left the game in 2015.

Rule: Tiger Woods recently joined the 40+ club, which, for a lot of people, is a time to reflect, take stock and look ahead to things like legacy. Graduating from Stanford would be a nice feather in the cap, and we’ve seen many athletes go back at a later time to finish their degrees. Local athletes like Vince Carter and Marcus Stroman come to mind. As far as Jack’s record, I would find it hard to believe that Tiger DOESN’T think he can catch him still. We all know the competitive, fiery nature of Tiger Woods. He won’t compete on the PGA Tour/Majors if he doesn’t think he can win. He’s not out there to make cuts or collect top 10’s; he’s out there to win.  I think if we see Tiger struggle to regain form or continue to catch the injury bug, he’ll walk away rather than continue to be a sideshow.  With all that said however, it’s highly unlikely that he will catch Jack’s 18 majors, but if anyone can do it, it will be Tiger.

Kaplan: You mean to tell me that the guy who backed out of the SAFEWAY OPEN (which is hosted on a course that has a max slope of 135 for its tournament setup) because his game wasn’t good enough to beat a field dominated by ROOKIES actually believes that he’s going to beat the best players in the world — players who are half his age! — on buffed-up courses that are SIGNIFICANTLY harder than Silverado? That is delusional. Maybe one more major! But, the guy thinks he’s going to get five more! Five!? I like Jose Bautista’s chances at a max contract in the NL more. As for his statement that his only regret in life to this point was not graduating from Stanford … come on, man! Whether or not things ended up working out for the guy, he still ruined his family, his image, his fortune and his golf game all at once by cheating on his wife with every Denny’s waitress in America.  How can he even say that to Charlie Rose with a straight face?!

Loughry: I’m a big fan of Tiger the golfer but that’s where it ends. Clearly he regrets his indiscretions; he just didn’t want to bring them up in the interviews. At least I hope that’s the case because otherwise it means he’s really a lost soul.

Quinn: They could have coined the word disingenuous just for Eldrick. It was interesting that Eldrick did the big ‘reveal’ to an non golf person — Charlie Rose ain’t exactly Doug Ferguson. Follow up? What a jumble of arrested thoughts and back tracks — it was like listening to Trump. His biggest regret should have been the fire hydrant crash after the Ellen wedge; that might have been genuine. Jack’s legacy is safe, thankfully.

Mumford: Just one regret? On top of all his medical issues, apparently Tiger has amnesia too. Apart from that little fire hydrant episode that cost him his marriage, he’s obviously forgotten the fact that he’s been a total jerk to fans and media for the past twenty years. As for breaking Jack’s record – Tiger has also forgotten that he can’t play golf anymore either.

Ian Woosnam, Meg Mallon, Davis Love III, Lorena Ochoa and the late Henry Longhurst will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame as the Class of 2016. Does anybody have any objections to that group and did the HOF committee miss any worthy candidates?

Deeks: I’m dumbfounded how the HOF continues to overlook Harry Colt, possibly the greatest parkland golf course designer of all time, with courses such as Sunningdale New, St. George’s Hill, Royal Country Down, Toronto, Ancaster, and several famous re-do’s like Muirfield and Hoylake. The problem is, he didn’t work much in the US, and the “World” Golf HOF is very US-centric. A deserving US-based architect, though, would be Tom Bendelow, who started out as a journeyman designer but then got really good, with Medinah being one of his greatest; he also had a tremendous impact on growing the game in the US from 1900-30. And what Canadian golfer wouldn’t like to see Stanley Thompson achieve proper recognition for his outstanding course designs in our country? If the HOF wants to be truly representative of people who deserve golf’s honour and respect, then they should add these three gentlemen soon.

Rule: It’s hard to disagree with any of those selections.  The one player that stands out to me is Jim Furyk.  Fifteen PGA Tour wins and a US Open, as well as 15 straight Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup appearances certainly puts him in the conversation.

Quinn: Not a fan, at all, of the WGHOF construct. I like Gary Player and have enjoyed our conversations but when he tells me in those awful TV ads that if I’m a golfer I have to come to the WGHOF, it feels like a decent person has become a flim flam man. When any supposedly hallowed Hall has an annual deadline and a quota it reveals itself as just another Florida tourist trap. Woosey? Love 3? Ochoa for what, ocho good years, if that? Longhurst deserves to be celebrated and acknowledged for his craft, but those left among us who still read past the second paragraph already know that.

Kaplan: I’ve got no problem with any of the picks, but I just don’t understand how Samuel Ryder (whom the Ryder Cup is named after) did not make the cut. Steroids?!

Loughry: Well, they all meet the minimum criteria the Hall sets for induction. The only one that stands out to me is Ochoa. She was absolutely dominant and retired at the top of her game (literally #1 female player in the world). It was shocking to the golf world, but not to those who knew her and her desire to have a family.

Mumford: Generally speaking, I think Halls of Fame strive too hard to add new inductees on a regular timetable and their criteria gets watered down in order to find people to fit. All of the 2016 WGHOF inductees have very credible records and deserve to be inducted into a Hall that includes Fred Couples – a very popular guy but only marginally close to Hall of Fame worthy. Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington will likely be the next players to meet the minimum criteria and their inductions will also be received with a yawn.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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