Tiger at 40: A true sporting great regardless of future achievements


Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day have each held golf's number-one ranking in the last six months.

Yet as we prepare to head into 2016, many would argue, with some justification, that a man who finds himself outside the world's top 400 remains the sport's biggest draw.

The recent decline of Tiger Woods, who turned 40 on Wednesday, has been a dramatic one and it is now more than seven years since he last tasted major glory - in truly memorable fashion at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Woods famously defied injury to win that tournament and secure his 14th major title, prompting Kenny Perry to state: "He beat everybody on one leg."

However, an unusually candid Woods acknowledged earlier this month that his current fitness problems could prove too much to overcome, as he continues his rehabilitation from a third procedure on his troublesome back.

Asked whether he would be surprised if he had not played a tournament a year from now, the American replied: "I've been asked this quite a bit lately and the answer is I don't know, only because I really don't."

Yet regardless of whether he is able to challenge at the highest level again and irrespective of his headline-grabbing fall from grace, Woods is undoubtedly an all-time sporting great.

His impact on golf can hardly be overstated.

It is one thing to enjoy spectacular success - and an astonishing 683 weeks as the world number one - but quite another to change the face of your sport to the extent that tournament attendances, television viewing figures and prize money all spike dramatically.

Even in 2015, a season that saw Woods record four times as many missed cuts as top-10 finishes, tournaments attained extra significance when Woods was present - as evidenced by record crowds when Woods challenged for the Wyndham Championship in August before fading in the final round.

Tournament director Mark Brazil said: "I think we saw, basically, everything up 30 to 50 per cent."

It remains to be seen whether Woods can recapture past glories in his fifth decade and seriously challenge for golf's premier prizes once again. But wouldn't it be something special if he could?

Woods may not be everybody's cup of tea and his public image was significantly tainted by the infidelity scandal that erupted in 2009.

Yet as a sporting superstar, he is arguably without parallel, which probably means he should not be written off just yet.