Can pro golf survive without Tiger Woods?
In the cold light of morning – after the golf superstar announced that he was leaving his clubs in the garage while he tries to pull his scandal-tainted life back together – the answer seemed to be a grimly-determined … maybe.
Survive, yes. But in a way that continues to attract hundreds of millions of regular fans, not to mention sponsors with very fat wallets? The answer here seems to be far more qualified.
By now, Woods’s statement that he’ll be taking “an indefinite break from professional golf [in order to] focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person” has ricocheted around the world.
PGA Tour officials said they “fully support Tiger’s decision to step away from competitive golf to focus on his family.” What else could they say?
But there remained a very large unknown in Woods’s statement: Just how long will the best golfer in the universe be away from the sport? And broadcasters as well as fans are wondering when they might see Woods on the links again.
“We’ve obviously done golf tournaments without Tiger before,” Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports and News, told the New York Times “But we all know how much better they do when Tiger is playing well on the weekend.”
“We’ll adjust,” McManus added, “but I guess a lot of it depends on what the definition of the word ‘indefinite’ is.”
Or as Australian golfer Geoff Ogilvy put it: "Indefinite is a scary word. If Tiger Woods indefinitely doesn't play golf, that's not good for us."
Peering into this great unknown – especially when Woods remains closeted in Orlando, taking no questions and offering no answers beyond his short statement acknowledging “infidelity” (presumably a collective noun given the number of women involved) – gives opportunity for much speculation.
For one thing, Gregory predicts, “Don’t be surprised if a curious audience chooses to sample golf next year in higher numbers than expected.”
Why’s that? Gregory says fans may stick around to see how the networks handle the scandal. Or they may begin pulling for another young player. “Of course, no other player has the charisma or talent of Tiger. But while Woods is away, fans may rehearse a golf life without him.”
For as Randall Mell at the Golf Channel observes, “When Woods doesn’t play, the game’s not the same.”
Like many who love the sport and follow it professionally, Mell strains to find good news: “Whatever time Woods spends away, it’s good for Woods and the PGA Tour if he returns as ‘the better father, husband and person’ he says he is trying to become.”
That’s certainly true for Tiger Woods, but not clearly certain for professional golf.
“Maybe we’re finally nearing the bottom of this awful story, but there’s no guarantee with media outlets continuing to dig,” Mell writes. “The appetite for the scandal is staggering. The depth of the allegations is equally staggering. The story still needs a bottom, and here’s hoping Woods moved us closer to it with his statement. Here’s hoping he’s on his way to turning this story around and leading us all out of this mess.”
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