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By Jim Brighters
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Think what you will of Tiger Woods' stunning achievement at the U.S. Open, (I happen to think it's one of the greatest accomplishments in sports with regard to playing hurt) but we must move forward.
Tiger would want that.
By now, we know that several people benefit from Woods' injury, namely the professional golfers of the PGA Tour. It's anyone's ballgame now for the British Open and PGA Championship. On top of that, players like Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Justin Leonard and Geoff Ogilvy have legitimate shots at the money title, the FedEx Cup title and $10 million that comes with it, and maybe Player of the Year honors as well.
If parity is your thing, you're happy. Woods won the U.S. Open in 91 holes on a leg he shouldn't even have been walking on, and finished second at the Masters in almost as bad shape. Everyone is in the hunt now.
That said, Woods' absence hurts so many.
The first is the PGA Tour itself. Losing the most dominant athlete in sports takes away national coverage for events that would otherwise be reported on, but now might not be.
Several people benefit from Tiger Woods' injury, namely Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, and Justin Leonard.
The flagship of the tour is now the FedEx Cup, and the buzz won't be nearly what it could have been with Woods in the mix. This year, points get weighed heavier come playoff time, so any odd circumstance where Woods could still win with his current point total is extremely unlikely.
Think the networks are happy for this loss? NBC pulled in record ratings for Woods' battle with Rocco Mediate, and due respect to Rocco, it had very little to do with him. Golf ratings will hit the toilet because, as history as shown, people watch something else without Woods' presence.
The FedEx Cup was built partly with the intent of combating the NFL's hold on the public at that stage of the year. Without Woods, the enthusiasm will be gone, and couple that with the fact that it's an Olympic year, you'll have some low ratings headed to the networks. Diehards will stay, but the casual fan is gone for the year.
Admittedly, the group I thought would be most negatively impacted by Woods' surgery is the United States Ryder Cup team. I don't subscribe to the theory that since Woods wasn't 100 percent "into" the event, this turn of events could help the team. That's utter hogwash.
Woods' Ryder Cup career started poorly in 1997, but he has not lost a singles match since. He has more wins in the Ryder Cup than any other active American player, so Paul Azinger just lost at least a guaranteed two points. Ryder Cups (although not lately) have been decided by a lot less.
No individual sport can overcome the loss of its top star. With Wimbledon in full swing, the interest level would be significantly less without a healthy Roger Federer. Since Woods has been bigger than the tour, his extended layoff hurts even more.
The tour will take a big hit in national coverage, and the powers that be should realize that the competition is now the key selling point. People will be interested in the majors and the Ryder Cup, but the push now should be on who will win Player of the Year or finish atop the money list.
If the motto is true and "These Guys are Good," they will have to prove it. Otherwise the PGA Tour ought to amend the slogan to "Just Watch Tiger and Enjoy."
It's gonna be a rough couple of months.
- Talk about much ado about nothing, this Johnny Miller flap is nonsense. It's a direct result of the Kelly Tilghman controversy earlier this year. What she said was racially based, while Miller seemed to be trying to convey Rocco Mediate's "everyman" status. If Mediate wasn't the least bit offended, why apologize? Just seems to be a case of oversensitivity. Want to get angry about a comment based in ethnicity, take up Don Imus' latest idiotic moment regarding Adam Jones.
- My pick for the U.S. Women's Open is Annika Sorenstam. I think she's got one left in her and I think she tops Lorena Ochoa for it. Call me a dreamer, but let's see this once before Annika hangs up her spikes.
- That was a very important win for Stewart Cink. If you are in the hunt in the final round often enough and don't hang on or break through, that wears on you. He should be in contention for the PGA.
- Non-golf thought - I was very saddened about the passing of George Carlin. He produced one of my favorite bits of comedy when he spoke about the number of breakfast cereals or cat foods you can buy in a country where you must decide between two people for President of the United States. Carlin showed that comedy is rooted in a deep intelligence. As Dennis Miller once said, if there is a comedy Mount Rushmore, Carlin is on it.