With or without Tiger Woods, Jason Day shines in Bay Hill victory
By Mike Bianchi
ORLANDO, Fla. – This column is about Tiger Woods.
Please, all of you digital subscribers, click on it twice.
OK, so it's really not about Tiger Woods, but if I mention Tiger Woods enough, Google will recognize the name and put this column at the forefront of Internet search engines – and that will make my boss very happy.
Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods.
OK, now let's talk about Jason Day winning The Arnie on Sunday.
Seriously, do you want to know what was so nice about it? We could actually watch and enjoy Day and the other golfers in contention on Sunday – Kevin Chappell, Troy Merritt and Henrik Stenson – without having to focus every bit of attention and adulation on you-know-who.
We could focus on what really matters – the golf – without being distracted by the never-ending Tiger conversation and confabulation.
Refreshingly, nobody really talked about Tiger, thought about him or wrote about him this weekend.
And, best of all, Tiger Woods didn't inject himself into the conversation like he did during the first two tournaments of the Florida swing. Remember before the Honda Classic when the golfing world was abuzz when Team Tiger dispersed a short video of Woods hitting a 9-iron into a simulator? This was meant to show that Tiger had not suffered a major setback after having his third back surgery, as one Twitter report claimed.
A week later, before Doral, Tiger made headlines again by doing an extensive interview with Golf Channel from a course he designed in Houston. For two straight weeks, Tiger not playing overshadowed 144 guys who did.
Which brings us to The Arnie, a tournament Tiger won eight times but never, ever in this fashion. Not even Tiger himself ever went wire-to-wire as Day did to win at Bay Hill. Day's up-and-down sand save on 18 was the most magical shot-making we've seen in these parts since Steph Curry hit the half-court buzzer-beater against the Magic a few weeks ago.
Day, 28, is an incredible talent with loads of charisma; the type of champion this tournament deserves. When he shook Arnie's hand on the 18th green, you could just tell the King was pleased to once again have one of the world's top players reigning over Bay Hill. With the win on Sunday, Day moves past Rory McIlroy to No. 2 in the world.
"Having that special moment with the King is something I've always wanted to do," Day said. "... It was great to shake the King's hand."
While it's true that the King's tournament – and golf in general – doesn't have the same buzz as it did back in Tiger's heyday, this is no reason to panic. It is simply the natural progression of things. Superstars get old and new superstars come along. Before Tiger and after Jack and Arnie, guys like Greg Norman, Fred Couples, Nick Price and Nick Faldo were the stars of the day. They didn't transcend the game like Tiger, Arnie and Jack, but golf fans still paid attention.
And that's what golf is becoming again, which is OK. Golf fans are still interested in the likes of Day, McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, but unless one of them emerges as a dominant, dynastic player, golf will become what it's been for most of its history: A sport that ebbs and flows with the majors.
This is why Tiger being away from the game is actually a good thing. It actually gives sports fans a chance to familiarize themselves with the new stars of the game. Let's face it, as long as Tiger is in the field – even if he is not contending as an elite-level player – he eclipses those players who are much better and more deserving of the attention.
Guys like Jason Day, who deserve the attention and adulation without having people mention Tiger's name all the time.
"I've been trading texts with Tiger all week," Day said after the victory. "Obviously, his words of wisdom [mean a lot] because he's played so well here. To be able to hear what he has to say and get his advice ... it gives me so much confidence that person like that would believe in me."
It's no use.
I guess this column really is about Tiger Woods.
This article was written by Mike Bianchi from The Orlando Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.