David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: Golf just a little dull without Tiger's X-factor

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Missing Tiger Woods yet? A guy called Keegan Bradley won the final golf major of the year, the US PGA at Atlanta on Monday.

He sounds as if he should have IV after his name on the wall plaque outside a Manhattan law firm.

Actually, he's the nephew of Pat Bradley, one of the women's game's all-time greats, winner of 31 LPGA titles, including six majors.

He's born to the game and young Keegan may join Aunty Pat among its legends, but for now he's just another thrusting up-and-comer making hay while Woods is away, so to speak.

Run down this list of names: Mark Wilson, Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker, DA Points , Jonathan Byrd, Harrison Frazar , Sean O'Hair, Scott Piercy and Brendan Steele.

Do any even raise a spark of recognition? They are among the winners on the US PGA Tour this year. This is not to deny they are talented. You don't win one of those through being jammy.

But there are degrees in all this and while it's conceivable to argue that golf has never been more blocked at the top end, with more decent players jousting for titles than ever, there's a lack of star quality there.

Take out Phil Mickelson and the men's game is a giant charisma bypass at the sharp end.

Which is where Woods comes in. He brings wattage to the game in spades. The last of his 14 majors was at the US Open in 2008. Since then, there have been 14 more majors, and won by 13 different players - the double up being Irishman Padraig Harrington.

Add in that those majors have been won by players from the US (four), Ireland, both sides of the border (four), South Africa (two), and one each from Germany, Argentina and Korea.

This is good. A geographical spread of the glory is no bad thing. You can imagine how the sight of Angel Cabrera, puffing his way down the fairway, must inspire youngsters from Buenos Aires and elsewhere in that country.

Ditto for Martin Kaymer to the youthful Germans and don't even start on YE Yang and the tidal surge of golf's popularity in Korea.

How the Irish take to their quadruple whammy since 2008 will be worth watching. No good at Gaelic football, son? Here, try this 4 iron for size.

Two days before Bradley's win, Woods left the Atlanta Athletic Club after shooting 10-over-par 150 for the first two rounds.

Woods had pronounced himself ready to return, fit and with a new man on his bag, he had done his best to talk himself into the frame.

One group of people desperate for him to rediscover his game and start trampling on rivals again are the television executives.

A Woods-free tournament, and certainly a Woods-free conclusion over the last nine holes on the final day, are a black hole in the ratings game.

So once again, how badly do you want Woods back and firing?

Woods brought a frisson to proceedings. You watched because you knew he might do the impossible, something you won't see again.

Leave aside his sexual shenanigans. He doesn't have appalling behaviour on his own.

You might not have cared for his often sour, expletive-laden behaviour, his rudeness to anyone who crossed his path, or the surly, bullying excesses of his caddy.

Woods has talked of changing, of trying to engage more but there's been precious little sign of it. So if he recovers his game, don't expect to find any more appealing a human being than of old.

Which leaves the golf. You wonder how much his mind has changed since the glory days when he could win titles by force of will, almost staring down his challengers.

This current lot are unlikely to be as cowed as those who felt the power of Woods' game and wilted. That's youth for you.

And that's what would make a return with something like the old game intact so intriguing.

How well, and for how long, would he cope if he became just another top-30 pro?

- NZ Herald

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