04/09/14 by Mike Catania
Tiger Woods no longer strikes fear in other golfers as he strides to hit his tee shot. The field of competitors at tournaments, both major and minor, always kept a close eye on Woods' score and where he sat on the leader board.
That isn't so much the case these days with Woods, at least not with his piers on the golf course.
No, Woods still is a force on the PGA Tour, but his staying power isn't so much derived from thrilling victories or long, remarkable putts on the green in a one hole playoff.
Today, Tiger is about ticket sales, television ratings and live attendance at golf tournament events. As The Masters begins April 10, Woods isn't part of the illustrious field due to back surgery that will keep him out well into the summer months.
Those at CBS, the network broadcasting The Masters, collectively groaned when they heard Woods wouldn't be competing this year. Their concern isn't so much whether or not Woods would make a run at the title but rather assuming that this year's ratings, and thus their advertising dollars as a whole, would suffer immensely.
History suggests that when Woods watches from the sidelines, everyone involved with the sales, promotion and marketing of subsequent events cringes at the idea of selling a tournament minus a name.
The odd aspect of Woods as it relates to live attendance and television viewership is that his career hasn't been the same since his off course, personal trials and tribulations that forced him into a whole different kind of limelight, one that had nothing to do with golfing.
Even as Woods returned from his personal plight and resumed his career on the PGA Tour, he never really recaptured the essence, swagger and on course game that made him the mega star he is today. But Woods is one of those rare figures in sports that is equal parts legendary and polarizing. It's no different than watching skaters blow by Wayne Gretzky or the game on the field passing by the likes of Joe Montana.
Their presence alone is enough to sell the masses that this particular sporting event is a can't miss endeavor. It also doesn't help golf in general that no one has really emerged from Woods' shadow as the new poster boy for golf. There's been a few like Sergio Garcia that have tried in vein to fill those golf spikes to no avail.
In essence, golf needs Woods, even if he doesn't necessarily win the "big one" anymore. CBS no doubt would take Tiger at 50% rather than not having him on the marquee at all.
Now to suggest that Woods is finished and will never reclaim his past glory is somewhat ridiculous, given that he's not even 40 years old. He's had his share of injuries recently, and some have already written the Woods' golfing eulogy as though he's on the brink of retirement.
Woods, at this moment, no longer is dominant. At one point in his career, him being on the course alone would leave the rest of the field wondering who is going to come in second place. Those discussions are diminishing with each missed tournament or nagging injury Tiger has to tend to during the season.
Woods surging back to the front of the pack at some point, however, in the hopes of challenging Jack Nicklaus' record of most wins at major tournaments, isn't as far fetched as most pundits predict.
Certainly, golf as a whole would welcome that feel good story courtesy of Woods. It would be good for golf. More importantly, it would be even better for business.
Then again, you could say the same about Woods in any form or fashion when it comes to truly creating a buzz that often is devoid without him.
The Masters, even with all its heritage and history, won't be any different.
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