There's no doubt about it, there were a wide variety of athletes to choose from, spanning the entire globe, when considering who the most internationally famous athlete would be. In the end, though, it was actually a surprisingly easy decision. My selection for the most internationally famous athlete was Tiger Woods.
Here's a guy whose hype preceded him in a big way, and make no mistake about, he did not fail to live up to every single bit of the hype and hooplah which he brought from the amateur ranks into the realm of professional sports. Eldrick was being touted as being all that, signing record endorsement deals, and creating a buzz and anticipation like no one before him.
He has proceeded to win golf tournaments at an absolutely torrid pace. He has won all components of the Grand Slam of golf, some of these events multiple times, not to mention the plethora of non-major titles which he has been victorious in. He's won everywhere: North America, Europe, etc., he's truly been a global phenomenon.
He has brought interest to the sport in an unprecedented fashion. He's changed the demographics of who watches golf, and for that matter, who plays it. Look at the attendance figures and/or ratings in events where Tiger Woods is featured, and compare this to events where he is absent. Look at how the numbers have dropped off when he has been out nursing injuries, or when he missed time more recently due to his extracurricular activities and affairs. And imagine how the numbers will be if he is able to regain his form and retake his seat on the throne as the king of golf.
Talk to someone who is not a golf fan. For that matter, talk to anyone who isn't even a sports fan. Everyone knows Tiger Woods. He's got the most recognizable face out there, if not always for the most positive reasons. Few athletes before him, and few to come, will carry this presence which spans beyond the athletics world and into the mainstream.
But habs, it's only golf, it's not a real sport! Bullshit. The talent, strength, precision, accuracy, etc., that it takes to play professional golf at this level is remarkable. Those who say golf is not a true sport must have never played the game, or if they have, they must have missed the significance of what it takes to excel at it. Pin-point precision, sometimes in adverse elements, in front of a global audience, no small feat if you ask me.
But HHF, his game is in decline. First of all, I don't buy into this for a second. Sure it's been a rough 12-18 months, but I for one fully expect Tiger to eventually right the ship and re-ascend to the pinnacle of the sport. Once he becomes physically healthy again and gets his mental state rectified, with the resolution of all his outside distractions, he'll be back. And even if his doesn't recapture his past glory, he has already achieved more to date than most professional athletes would ever dream of achieving. Winning a professional golf tournament is not easy. Winning a major is even tougher, just look at all of the athletes in the PGA who have never done so, or have only done so once or twice. Winning like Tiger has, often in dominating fashion, now that's legendary.
Come on, habs, he's a scumbag. Just look at what he did. Honestly, I couldn't care less. He's the most internationally famous athlete, not the best person. He's no role model to me or to my kids except for his skills on the golf course. Not my place to comment on his morality, or lack thereof. I'm tired of his entire life being nitpicked to the extent that it has been, leave the man alone and let him move forward. But I guess that's not possible when you are the most internationally famous athlete on the planet. With all of the fame, fortune, glory, accolades, etc., comes scrutiny and expectations off the links. Plus, even if you don't approve of his conduct away from the PGA tour, it has made him probably even more recognizable internationally. Not only is he visible now on ESPN, TSN, CBS, etc., but he's also on TMZ, in the Enquirer, etc.,
All due respect to Muhammed Ali, Roger Federer, Michael Jordan, or whomever else, the most internationally famous athlete out there is the incomparable Tiger Woods.