Today, the PGA Tour is starving for Tiger Woods to return to greatness.
In 2010 he’s had the toughest time of his entire career with his game, missing cuts and not winning tournaments.
As much the tens of the millions across the world still love Tiger, one thing he’s never been is fan-friendly.
Now that we know what kind of man Woods really is, it makes us look at these players in a new light and respect the guys who really care for the fans—the most fan-friendly golfers on the PGA Tour…
10. Stewart Cink
Nothing in particular sticks out about Stewart Cink in terms of being a fan-friendly golfer, but the way he goes about his business on the golf course makes it easy for us all to relate to the 37-year-old.
He’s relatively quiet on the course but shows emotion to the fans in the most critical times—when he makes a big putt or hits a tight approach.
Cink is well-spoken and realizes that the fans have made the game of golf grow exponentially during his time on tour.
9. Bubba Watson
The self-taught Watson has recently become a fan favorite due to his free swing that launches the ball into orbit and the way he interacts with the fans.
You see, Watson wasn’t one of these holier-than-thou child prodigies that was patted on the back throughout his childhood as he moved up the amateur ranks.
He played at Faulkner State Community College in Alabama before moving on to the University of Georgia, where he led the Bulldogs to an SEC Championship in 2000.
Watson stays true to his roots in Bagdad, Florida and wears a constant smile while strolling the fairways each weekend. A real down-to-earth kind of guy.
8. Woody Austin
Woody Austin has been rather invisible following his second-place finish in the 2007 PGA Championship, but we know Woody as a player the fans love.
He scrambles his way around the golf course and wears his emotions on his sleeve. We’ve seen him overjoyed in triumph and completely agitated in failure, and we like that.
Austin is always one to tip the cap to the crowd and throw a ball to his fans after his round’s complete.
Another guy to whom golf fans around the country can relate.
7. Rich Beem
The 2002 PGA Championship winner is another blast from the past for most golf fanatics out there but certainly is a name we still remember vividly.
Who can forget the dance he did when he tapped in for his first and only major victory after holding off Tiger Woods at Hazeltine?
That tells it all. He’s always had quite the relationship with the fans because he knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the ropes—Beem worked as a cell-phone salesman before his major title.
6. Fred Funk
The straight-driving Fred Funk has been fan-friendly and a fan favorite for years on the PGA Tour.
Fans are drawn to the workmanlike way he scores on the golf course.
He comes off as a pretty normal guy that just happens to have a silky-smooth swing with no troubles rolling the ball with his flat stick. Funk could be fan-friendly because he spent time as the University of Maryland golf coach, and he takes kindly to the people who root for him each week.
5. John Daly
John Daly makes this list because of his similarity to the average golf fan.
He’s been overweight, has struggled as a husband, and has had to fight off the bottle on more than one occasion.
Outside of his “problems,” Daly is a genuine, nice person who never shies away from handing a kid an autograph or entertaining the fans with a few witty comments. Daly closely resembles you and I more than any other athlete we’ve
seen in quite some time, maybe ever.
4. Fred Couples
Fred Couples is the perfect example of how fan-friendliness can translate into becoming a fan favorite.
This Seattle native is beloved wherever he travels across the nation, and his next-door-neighbor demeanor is what really hits home with fans. He’s been a staple on the PGA Tour since 1980, and his consistent play along with his cordial way with the fans before, during, and after his rounds make Couples one of the most fan-friendly golfers out there today.
3. Jerry Kelly
Talk about someone who walks the course free of arrogance.
Jerry Kelly seems to be one of the select group of golfers today that don’t let the wealth go to their heads.
I attended the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, NY and recall Kelly signing autographs between holes. That showed me the dedication to his legion of followers.
Kelly’s the type of man I wish all tour players would emulate—happy-go-lucky, never in a sour mood.
After all, these guys are playing golf for a living. Solid golfer, even better guy.
2. Rocco Mediate
The 2008 U.S. Open, for me, was the most memorable stretch of golf I’ve ever witnessed.
The average Joe Rocco Mediate went birdie for birdie with the Goliath, Tiger Woods, and didn’t break a sweat.
It’s not only his supreme courage that fans love. It’s the fact that throughout his roller-coaster career, Mediate has kept the fans toward the front of his mind and has thankfully rewarded his surprisingly big fanbase with continual laughs.
1. Phil Mickelson
Usually when professionals reach the top of their sport, egos become larger than the athlete himself.
Not for Phil Mickelson—not even close.
He’s remained humble on his journey to the pinnacle of the golf world and constantly flashes smiles to the enormous army of patrons who follow him at each tournament.
We see him signing gloves for people he’s struck on errant tee shots and always giving back to the community through his Phil Mickelson foundation. Forget how fine of a golfer Mickelson is. He’s truly a class act and is a fan favorite for good reason—he’s simply a friendly guy.