Can golf survive without Tiger?

The Never Ending Story

I’ve always tried to respect the thought that a sport simply cannot revolve around one player. However, in golf’s case, that adage is about as true as the idea that “winning isn’t everything.”
For those of you who don’t know, Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer in the known universe, was forced to undergo reconstructive knee surgery after his unbelievable win at this year’s U.S. Open and will be out of commission until next season.
Although he was only able to play in six PGA events this year, Woods won four of them and finished second in another, which to the non-golfer is the basic equivalent to batting .800 with about 122 home runs.
Seeing a season like this come to an end after only six tournaments left me with some of the emptiest feelings a sports fan can endure, but after my crying subsided and I slowly began to eat again, I started thinking about what the name Tiger Woods means to the game of golf.
As the top endorsement recipient in the world and one of the most recognizable faces, Tiger Woods has become not only a household institution, but has influenced and inspired his sport in a way only Michael Jordan had done before.
Outside of being on pace to break every record known to statisticians, Tiger has turned golf into a game that no longer requires, as Happy Gilmore so eloquently put it, “goofy pants and a fat ass.”
Tiger Woods made golf cool – or at least as cool as it’s going to get.
More kids than ever are playing the game, and although Tiger’s dominance shadows it a little bit, the quality of play at all levels has  gone through the roof.
But above all, he has made golf fun to watch.
He’s capable of doing things on the course that have made even the most disinterested golf fans scratch their heads in amazement. Whether he is up or down 10 shots, everybody wants to know what Tiger Woods is doing.
So what happens to the game when he decides to take some time off?
At this time last year, I was completely glued to my TV watching Tiger once again make history in the first-ever FedEx Cup, a four-tournament playoff series which weeds out players until the final week when the top overall points winner is crowned champion.
This past weekend however, with the crucial third leg of the series heating up, I laid on my couch, drifted in and out of sleep and watched a Karate Kid marathon.
I’m not saying I regret my decision, but I can guarantee nobody in history has ever felt as guilty while watching that movie as I did.
Part of me knew I should be watching Camilo Whats-his-name win his first-ever PGA Tour Event, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I feel bad for every single player on the tour when I say this, but it just seems like without Tiger Woods in the equation, the second-best man wins. And unfortunately for the game, most fans seem to agree with me.
Ratings for this past weekend’s BMW Championship were down about 58 percent from last year for Saturday’s third round, and an even more depressing 63 percent for Sunday’s championship round, according to www.signonsandiego.com.
Now, as long as Tiger’s recovery goes well, things should be back to normal next year and perhaps even more exciting as he attempts to pick up where he left off. But his short absence has left me with some uneasy feelings about the future.
Tiger won’t be around to save golf forever.
What happens when his reign is over? What are the odds we will see another player even remotely like him in our lifetime?
If golf has lost over half of its viewers with Tiger out for a few months, what chance does it have once he is just a name from the past or an occasional guest anchor talking about his glory days?
I hope for the sake of the free world that Tiger Woods has at least another unbelievable 12 years left in his career, but if not, I guess I can find refuge in the fact that I found “The Karate Kid” in Wal-Mart’s $5 DVD bin the other day.
Get well Tiger. Ralph Macchio isn’t a very good substitute.
D.J. Piehowski is a junior journalism major from Genoa. He is the Scout sports reporter.
Direct questions, comments and other responses to dpiehowski@mail.bradley.edu.