Golf Coast | Masters, golf will be OK while Tiger Woods recuperates

jdill@bradenton.comApril 5, 2014 

If you're a golf fan who has watched enough March Madness to make anyone question your sanity, then you've surely seen the commercials from CBS explaining the first major of the year as a "Tradition, unlike any other."

That tradition this year won't include Tiger Woods.

The man chasing down Jack Nicklaus' hallowed career major title mark of 18 is having back surgery and won't play at Augusta National.

The famed course is a rite of passage for spring, following Major League Baseball's Opening Day and the NCAA Tournament.

But unlike those two sports, golf is an individual game and has relied on Woods' involvement -- for better or for worse -- as a ratings grab for the television networks.

The CBS suits surely aren't pleased, but this doesn't mean golf is dead.

Despite what most will view as a death sentence for the golf boom, the fact is that golf has waned for years.

When the economy entered a prolonged recession, spending on luxury items like golf diminished. Add in the technological boom with smartphones, and it simply means the average attention span has lessened, which leads

to fewer people wanting to play a round of golf in a day's activities.

But Woods still served to raise golf's profile and change the view that golfers are athletes, too.

The popularity generated by Woods' ascension into the pantheon of golf's immortals (Bobby Jones, Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Walter Hagen, Harry Vardon, Gary Player, etc.) happened because fans longed for a dominant force who had a killer personality.

Woods was magnetic, and everyone flocked to see what he'd do next. When his extramarital affair scandal broke out, Woods became the villain. But he still remained golf's biggest draw.

However, the popularity of golf does not rest with one player.

There's a good crop of young players ready to take over the mantle. Look at Jordan Spieth or Patrick Reed. Both players have generated buzz with their game, and, in Reed's case, their comments exuded confidence that bordered on arrogance and cockiness.

Nonetheless, those two guys are ready to show the golfing world what they can do on a big stage.

The Masters got along just fine prior to Woods' arrival in 1997, when his mammoth victory set a ratings record for the event, and it will continue to be a must-watch tournament long after Woods retires.

What is certain is that the back surgery sets Woods back in his quest to surpass the Golden Bear's major title record.

While it's unclear whether Woods will ever win another major, the world's No. 1 golfer might not ever regain his formidable form.

And with the ever-increasing youth movement taking over golf -- Rory McIlroy, Reed and Spieth are each younger than 25 -- that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill

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