Like many, I initially thought this was an April Fool’s prank.
Tiger Woods will not play in the Masters this year.
But it’s not. The most famous golfer of all time will not play in the most prestigious tournaments of all time because he’s had minimally invasive back surgery.
So much for the potential television ratings of the most-watched golf tournament. Those brightly blooming azaleas may not be enough.
The status of Tiger for tournaments this summer, and his quest for another (and long-awaited) victory in a major, is uncertain.
A seismic shift in golf has become more pronounced. You wonder about the collateral damage.
Tiger Woods is by far the biggest draw in pro golf. Television ratings plummet when he’s not in a tournament even though Tiger hasn’t been the same after his run-in with a fireplug and/or his ex.
He no longer carries an intimidating mystique on the course.
At times he’s the greatest golfer on the planet, but he’s run into kryptonite.
Other golfers can hit the ball just as far and have exhibited better putting skills. There are more really good golfers that ever.
But no king of the jungle.
Tiger is getting older.
He’s had four knee surgeries and now the back.
I’m confident Tiger will return but will he ever be the same. Back problems often don’t go completely away, especially in a sport that puts a lot of stress on the back.
His medical team may now be more important than the swing coach.
The larger question is whether professional golf is ready for Tiger to move off center stage.
Reality is Tiger Woods, with all his flaws, is golf to many. No golfer currently on the scene has the marketability and general persona as Woods.
The widespread interest in golf without Tiger is similar to that of the NCAA basketball tournament to Arkansans when the Razorbacks are not involved.
It’s trying to eat potatoes without the meat.
Will professional golf have to move on without its greatest icon?
As far as a broad image, will it be toothless without Tiger?
Certainly, the PGA Tour will be missing a signature growl, maybe for awhile.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or email@example.com or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)