In 2011, Peyton Manning underwent surgery for a pinched nerve in his neck and missed the entire NFL season. Many questioned his ability to continue his career. The Denver Broncos took a chance on him and two years later, at 37, he threw a NFL record 55 touchdown passes. Two years after that, he threw nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions, and despite winning the Super Bowl, had clearly lost the physical ability to compete. He rode off into the sunset and now drinks Budweiser and happily pitches Papa Johns pizza.
Tiger Woods is one year older than Manning, and their professional careers came of age in roughly the same time period (1997-1998). Woods is now 41. Plagued by injuries and psychological foibles he fell from 2nd to 218th in the FedEx standings in 2014 and has done nothing since, except fill his fans with false hope. Why he continues to play is anyone’s guess, but does he deserve to continue?
If Tiger was in Manning’s shoes, he’d be out. We often think of golf as the ultimate meritocracy sport but is it? The answer is still “Yes.” Tiger earned his place in any field he wants to play in, just as any player with 20 career wins and an active 15-year Tour membership can claim. Tiger actually still qualifies from his PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP victory in the last five years, but soon he’ll be on the 15-20 list. Ever wonder why Tom Watson, at 67, occasionally shows up in a PGA Tour event? He’s on the same exemption list. Vijay Singh too. Go here to check out the players that are exempt. It’s updated daily.
Like it or not, successful PGA Tour events are staged when the tournament sponsor makes money. Sponsors need those big names to draw crowds and television viewers. That’s why they are granted exemptions for tournament entrants. If Tiger is in the field and hacking, people are still watching. So if better players are shut out of the field, so be it. The difference is in football, you have a contract, you’re on a team, and you get paid. If you can no longer perform, you get no contract and are finished. In golf, you still have a chance.
As long as the current PGA Tour revenue model remains the same, we need that 15-20 exemption list and sponsor’s exemptions to drive attendance and positive viewership. Guys like David Duval (45) hung on much longer than Tiger. Duval did absolutely nothing for an entire decade. Other guys like Ian Baker-Finch knew when they lost it and quit fast. Tiger Woods should continue to play as long as he likes. It might get ugly, but shoot, I’ll still be watching. How about you; think we are good or do we need a change to the exemption rules?