NORTON - Rory McIlroy may be the top ranked golfer in all the world. Keegan Bradley may be the hometown favorite. Make no mistake, though, Tiger Woods still rules the world of golf, in New England and around the globe.
Woods, playing in the 10th anniversary edition of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston this Labor Day weekend, kept himself close to the top spot on the leaderboard from start to finish, but it was Rory McIlroy who claimed victory, shooting a 20-under (including an impressive 4-under 67 on the tournament's final day) for the tournament to pick up the $1,440,000 winner's purse, and more importantly, the 2,500 points in the FedExCup playoff standings, moving him into first place.
Still, the people came, in droves, to see one man. Not Rory, Keegan or even Phil Mickelson. Tiger.
Now, for a little aside. Bear with me, if you will. Monday was a first for me. Never had I covered a PGA event in person, and let me tell you, if anyone tells you that golf isn't a major sport in New England, they're wrong. The amount of people that filled the gallery amazed me. People love their golf here, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's the real deal. OK, back to the Tiger talk.
Woods drew the crowds all weekend long. On the first three holes of Monday''s final round, waves and waves of fans followed the former No.1 golfer in the world from hole to hole. Walking into a wave of Tiger fans going the opposite direction is not an easy task, as I learned first hand Monday.
Tiger was the talk of the tourney, as you might expect. Just listening to the conversations among the spectators, it was Tiger this, Tiger that. Some of the comments and cheers were positive.
Others, unsurprisingly, were not.
There was a time when Woods was seen as the American sports star. Forget LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning or Derek Jeter. Tiger was undoubtedly the greatest. He was untouchable.
Alas, those days are long gone, and his reputation has taken a devastating blow, leading to the downfall of America's sports hero, a fall from grace unlike any other ever seen in the sports world.
Woods was taken down by a sex scandal that would capture headlines for months. In the process, Woods -- who had an extramarital affair with a nightclub manager from New York City named Rachel Uchitel (she denied it) and many other women came forward claiming to have had sexual relations with Woods. The nightmarish scandal cost Woods his wife, Elin Nordegren (who divorced him), and is also estimated to have resulted in a shareholder loss between $5 to $12 billion.
Not to mention, the loss of his pristine reputation, too.
Woods then took a hiatus from golf from February of 2010 through April of the same year, which tested the true impact Tiger had on the golf world. Woods returned at The Masters, but has not been the same player since. This year, Woods has been playing strong golf, picking up three wins and climbing to third in the FedEx Cup standings prior to the Deutsche Bank Championship.
If we learned anything from Tiger's extended absence, it was this: Golf can survive without Tiger Woods and his trademark red polo making appearances, but it cannot thrive without him.
As the years go by, Wood's talent will continue to decline, and eventually he'll give up his throne on top of the golf kingdom to a younger player, possibly even the surging, fresh-faced McIlroy.
For now, though, it's still Tiger's world, and everyone else (yes, even Rory) is simply living in it.
Gethin Coolbaugh is the Editor of SB Nation Boston. Follow him @GethinCoolbaugh on Twitter.