It had to happen, but we just didn’t think it would be so soon.
So, that leaves the door wide open, but for whom? Who, if anyone, can fill the enormous void left by the most dominant player ever to set foot on Augusta’s glistening greens?
It has been six years since his last major title, and it will be longer as he misses the Masters for the first time in his career. His quest to pass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles is once again put on hold.
It is the Masters that we most associate with Tiger, who has won there four times. If given a choice, we might have said that of all the venues where he might finally end his title drought, it would be there.
Today’s pros have Tiger to thank for so much: For the huge crowds and even more huge prize money; for the major sponsors, the massive media coverage and international largesse of their sport; for the example he set as the most intimidating presence on the golfing scene since Nicklaus.
There is no next Tiger waiting in the wings, but there are many who must be chomping at the bit now that he will not be playing at Augusta. This is a day they have prepared for. Now let’s see who can make a push to prominence.
Even without golf’s crown jewel, the field may be as strong as ever, especially with the rise of a slate of new winners on the tour.
Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson have the swagger. Adam Scott has the experience and Rory McIlroy the sheer talent. Jordan Spieth appears to have the competitive spirit, while there are a slew of other young players whom we are just getting to know but who can now capitalize on Tiger’s absence.
Oh, yes, there is a guy named Phil who, if he can get over his own injury, just might be able to make a run at another green jacket.
Who will capture the spotlight at Augusta in what appears to be the dawn of a new era in golf? Let’s take a look at those with the best chance.