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by Tom Gorman

Tiger Woods Squaring Off

After his worst year as a pro in the books, in which Woods created, and survived, an epic downfall and trial-by-tabloid unmatched by any professional athlete in history, I am now beginning to wonder if the greatest golfer that ever lived should resume his old lifestyle that included banging porn stars at every chance he gets. 
Think about it, Woods accomplished stuff on the golf course no other human being has, while at the same time engaging in sordid, off-course hanky-panky. If that’s a winning formula, why the hell stop?  Most of us just couldn’t help but follow El Tigre through the events of his self-inflicted, fiery crash and burn. And, now we come to find out the man who changed the game forever is also very much a sexual superstar, with testimonials from dozens of first-hand Las Vegas centerfold de jours.  
When you’re a prolific, money-making machine like Woods, and one of the most recognizable faces on the planet, there are temptations along with the privileges. Ever since Woods’ stint at a sex addiction clinic in Hattiesburg, Miss in February 2010, the guy just doesn’t look the same standing over those six-footers for par, and the state of the game has not been the same for the PGA Tour and for millions of golf aficionados.  But it is darn right hazardous to underestimate the value that Woods carries for the future of the PGA Tour. Since turning pro in 1997, we know what he’s done, but can the TOUR continue to flourish without him?
It doesn’t take a golf savant like Tim Geary to recognize that Tiger Woods is a ratings magnet; it is folly to think otherwise. Tiger’s progress gives golf its groove back! The TOUR needs Tiger more than Tiger needs the TOUR.  The need him to step beyond the past and into the future. The resume of the 35-year old legend is a work in progress with 95 worldwide titles; including 14 majors and 71 PGA TOUR wins. Sine 1997 he has held the No. 1 world ranking 623 weeks, with his consecutive streak of 281 ended in October. The Lords of the Masters have at least two more green jackets measured for him, and I predict he’ll win Masters No. 5 on April 10.
Whenever the filthy-rich TOUR, offering over $200 million in prize money this year, wants our undivided attention, they go to their ace in the hole, and flash highlight film from one of Woods’ trademark uppercuts he used to throw after holing unbelievable putts. Watching Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson or Rory Sabbatini spells doom for TV viewership and corporate sponsors. These guys are good and will some day appear on “Celebrity Apprentice” or “The Big Loser” but they lack charisma, emotion and duende. No matter how you shake the lineup, players not named Tiger Woods can not draw ratings, with the exception being Phil Mickelson.
The Golf Channel set viewership records during the first and second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship held at Doral on March 10 and 11. Think the Woods and Mickelson pairing had anything to do with 1.14 million viewers tuning in for Thursday’s first round, the most in Doral’s 23-year television history? The TOUR desperately needs the El Tigre. They need him to go low on Saturday, wear red on Sunday and be in the hunt! They need the superior conditioned billionaire back twirling his irons after a good shot, pumping his fist after a brilliant shot, flashing that smile showing some genuine (or  some made-for-TV) emotion. They need Tiger because he attracts unprecedented ratings, largely due to his ability to draw casual golf fans to the tube, and then advertising revenues boom.
Ever since Woods’ ill-fated date with an Orlando fire hydrant, he is the most watched athlete in the world, and as long as he stays in contention at any given tournament, he is the greatest show on earth – at least on the golf course. Who can forget the 2008 US Open when TV commentator Dan Hicks asked, “Expect anything different?”
Will Tiger ever be Tiger again?  No, but the worst you can say is that he has become ordinary and that his golf game temporarily has declined to the point that he is no longer special. The “Tiger Effect” extends beyond TV ratings and increased web site traffic, and the TOUR has a problem. They are worried that, without Woods, TV networks will lower payments for broadcast rights and tournament sponsors will pull their money and negotiate reduced rates.  
This month the golf world will focus on the “Drive for Five” at Augusta National, where Woods’ last victory was 2005. What matters most to the TOUR is the undeniable fact that golf is slowly losing its spirit, its soul and its attraction!  A Tiger win will instantly give golf its groove back!
  
(Tom Gorman, a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, International Network of Golf and Golf Travel Writers of America, is a Boston-based freelance golf writer whose next scheduled interview is with a Las Vegas centerfold.)

 

 

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