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What's a Tiger Woods Autograph Worth NOW?

Posted 6/20/2011 20:46 | Filed under General | Comments (0)
Almost exactly three years ago, Tiger Woods had just won his 14th major tournament at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, just outside San Diego. I was there that Monday when he beat Rocco Mediate. As we found out later, Tiger won that event with one good leg. At the time only 32 years old, Tiger was still in his prime and it seemed certain that eclipsing the Jack Nicklaus record of 18 major championships -- Tiger's lifelong goal -- was only a matter of time.

Flash forward to 2011. Tiger hasn't won a major since, missed the 2011 U.S. Open entirely due to injury, and no one knows exactly when he'll return to the PGA Tour. When he does, it's questionable whether he will ever regain his #1 ranking or more important to him, how many major titles are left in his golf bag.  Meanwhile, 22 year old Rory McIlroy just completed a Tiger-esque dominant victory lap at the 2011 U.S. Open after coming awfully close at the Masters.

Is the Tiger Woods era of golf now over? I believe it could be, for five primary reasons:

1. Health. Violent golf swings are not unlike a baseball pitcher's throwing motion. It's an unnatural human activity that wears and tears on the body. Remarkable athlete that Tiger is, he still is mortal and it's obvious that his body is gradually breaking down under the pressure.

2. Age. At 35, Tiger is by no means washed up, but he's running out of time to catch Nicklaus. At best, Tiger has about 40 majors left to play while he could still be competitive, and he needs to win 1 out of every 10 to tie Jack, 1 out of every 8 to surpass him. Can he do it? Yes, but it certainly looks much less likely than it did in 2008. Remember, Tiger needs to win 5 more majors, or 1 more major than Phil Mickelson has won in his entire career.

3. Rory McIlroy. If McIlroy is close to as good as he's looked at the last two majors, beating the field 7 out of 8 days by a wide margin, then it's reasonable to project that Rory could average 1 major victory a year for the next 10 years. That would mean 10 less opportunities for Tiger to win, obviously.

4. No fear. Several years ago, the Tiger Woods aura intimidated the rest of the PGA Tour whether they chose to admit it or not. That factor was probably good for a stroke or two per tournament. Whatever aura there was left diminished once Y.E. Yang took him down at the 2009 PGA Championship, and then evaporated entirely in the wake of Tiger's adultery scandal.

5. International competition. In addition to McIlroy and Yang, several younger golfers from around the globe have emerged as being potential threats to Tiger at every major: Jason Day, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald, etc. Old threats like Mickelson aren't going away any time soon, either. The days of Tiger running away with majors, or even regular PGA Tour events, are apparently over. Just look at Tiger's diminishing margins of victory from his early major wins to his most recent ones.

If the Tiger era is over -- keeping in mind that we won't really know the answer for at least 2-3 more years -- will this harm the value of his autographs, cards and other memorabilia? It certainly would. Tiger's memorabilia demand and prices are based on him not only being the best player in the world (which doesn't seem to be the case any longer), but also becoming the undisputed best player of all time. If Tiger fails to at least tie Jack's record, then he can't call himself the best golfer of all time, especially considering Sam Snead has both Nicklaus and Woods beat for career PGA Tournament wins.

If you're unhappy about facing this possibility, neither am I, considering how many Tiger autographs I still have in inventory. No, I'm not going to give them away, but I reduced the prices recently and might have to continue doing so if Tiger doesn't stage a comeback.
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