While Tiger Woods amazing resurgence into the golfing spotlight hardly comes as a surprise given his unique talents, his ability to overcome serious injury is a less regular occurrence. Players are prone to a range of injuries in golf which, unlike team sports, have the potential to hit their bank balance directly if away from the course for prolonged periods. We look at the steps professionals can take to alleviate this worry.
Let’s face it, a Hollywood scriptwriter couldn’t have dreamed up a more dramatic or compelling storyline.
The Ryder Cup, which starts tomorrow in Paris, was already set to be one of the sporting highlights of an incredible year, but its always fascinating narrative has been gifted another dimension by Tiger Woods’ impeccable timing.
While Tiger’s return to the US Ryder Cup team had already triggered a wave of excitement around the world of sport, his comeback victory at last weekend’s Tour Championship in Atlanta meant that it has become a tsunami.
Now 42, Woods has been the dominant force in golf for most of his pro career, but the glory days looked to be behind him as a result of a back injury which required four surgeries and, just 18 months ago, meant he needed help just to get out of bed. Back then, as The New York Times reported, his main concern wasn’t whether he could get back on a golf course but whether he would ever be able to play with his kids again.
But as he strode, slightly tearfully, through the massive crowd of supporters after his win on Sunday, a new chapter was written in the legend of Tiger Woods. Having returned to the sport only in December when he was ranked 1,199 in the world, he has overcome a raft of injuries and slew of personal issues to pose a mighty real threat to the current record for the number of majors and PGA titles won.
While Woods’ personal renaissance is hitting the headlines around the world, he is not alone among the stars who will contest the Ryder Cup whose careers have been threatened – or at least significantly interrupted – by injury.
European stars Rory McIlroy – whose rib injury was a major factor in his problems in 2017, and teammate Paul Casey have both been hard hit by physical issues which have, many experts agree, impacted on their success on the course and, consequently, their earning ability.
Because of its very nature, injuries in golf tend not to be career threatening as they may be in contact sports, but the fact is that the stresses and strains on the body mean that players are prone to a range of injuries which can keep them out of the game long enough for their absence to hit their bank balances.
As Tiger Woods discovered, back injuries are particularly common, but rotator cuff (shoulder) knee, wrist and elbow conditions can also be a major issue and can require surgery and time away from the course. And as golfers only get paid when they play, that means missing out what could be millions in appearance and prize money if they are on the sick list for a prolonged period.
In professional team sports players will be paid throughout an injury because they are employees of a team which is responsible for their salary. That’s not the case with golfers or, in fact, tennis players who are, effectively, sole practitioners and only have themselves to look after their interests.
Consequently, players and their management will look to insure against any loss of earnings due to their absence through injury. This is done using average earnings over a period of years to establish the insurable value and establishing a premium accordingly.
Even those Ryder cup stars whose success and fame allows them to earn significant sums from endorsements and business activities need to be sure that earnings are maintained if they are unexpectedly struck down by an injury.
It’s worth remembering that, in this respect, despite working in glamorous surroundings in the glare of the global media spotlight and being idolised by fans on every continent, pro golfers are no different to any other self-employed people who need to secure their livelihoods if the worst happens. It’s really just a matter of scale.
So here’s a thought as you watch Tiger and co teeing off at the Ryder Cup; when it comes down to it, they’re all just like your plumber!