US PGA Championship: Spotlight on Tiger Woods allowing rivals to fly under the radar
It turns out that the Tiger Woods effect is not just for spectators, broadcasters and sponsors, according to other players at this week’s US PGA Championship.
The impact of Woods taking part in a golf tournament on attendance, viewing figures and commercial interest is the stuff of sports industry lore.
But some of the field that he is up against are also delighted that the 15-time major winner is a lightning rod for attention, allowing them to prepare for today’s start in relative peace.
World No1 Scottie Scheffler confirmed as much with a light-hearted remark that had the ring of truth earlier this week.
“Tiger’s here so nobody really remembers that I’m here, so it’s all good,” he quipped.
Scheffler has experienced first-hand how useful it can be for all eyes to be focused on Woods.
The 46-year-old’s return to competition after more than a year out recovering from a career-threatening car accident naturally generated the most excitement in the lead-up to the Masters last month.
Scheffler, meanwhile, arrived at Augusta relatively under the radar considering he was the hottest player on the PGA Tour.
He emerged from Tiger’s shadow over the weekend to win his first major and his fourth title overall of a remarkable start to the year.
That Woods is teeing it up at the US PGA on Thursday at Southern Hills should help Scheffler to go after his fifth win in 98 days the way he likes best.
“For me, staying in my own lane and doing my own thing is what works best,” he said. “I’ve performed my best when I’ve kept my head down and not paid attention to anything else.”
Rory McIlroy has struggled to live up to the standards he set early in his career, which mean that the spectator and media spotlights are never too far away.
He, too, has preferred to keep his preparations low-key as he seeks a fifth major title eight years on from his last.
The Northern Irishman has shunned extensive practice at the Oklahoma course, instead familiarising himself with recent changes to the set-up via coverage from golf media.
“I’ve won a couple of majors where I’ve played nine holes on Tuesday, nine holes on Wednesday and sort of teed it up and played really well,” said McIlroy.
“I’ll take execution over preparation. If the ball goes where you’re looking, that’s more than half the battle.”
By contrast, Woods, who faded after making a strong start to the Masters, has left no stone unturned in his quest to repeat his 2007 US PGA triumph at Southern Hills.
“The first mountain we climbed was Everest, it’s only going to get flatter and better,” he said, referring to his major comeback at Augusta.
“Things are not going to be as easy as people think but I’m having more days that are better, more positive, and I’m able to practice longer.”
Woods visited the Tulsa venue last month to scout the extensive changes, which include wider fairways and shorter grass around the greens, and has been practising on it since Sunday.
His peers wouldn’t have it any other way.