The 2014 U.S. Open without Tiger Woods is like watching the Italian national team compete in the World Cup without Mario Balotelli. Sure, it would probably still be an intriguing match, but the lack of star power leaves something to be desired.
Yes, there's plenty of talent on display this year at Pinehurst No. 2—most notably fan favorite Phil Mickelson—but without the allure of a Tiger sighting, the tournament simply seems to fall flat.
This has already been evident over Friday's early-round action.
Martin Kaymer put on two fantastic performances, notching a pair of five-under 65s to enter the clubhouse at an astonishing 10-under par.
Not only did Kaymer lead the field by eight strokes after he finished his second round, but he set an all-time tournament record, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Martin Kaymer set the all-time U.S. Open record for lowest 36-hole score (130). He's 10-under through 36.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 13, 2014
You'd think his blazing performance would have people clamoring to see more, right?
In fact, Kaymer's lead had an adverse effect.
Without Woods in the field, and with Mickelson sitting far off the pace, people began hoping for a fall from grace for the tournament leader.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald gave his take:
Martin Kaymer needs to visit Triple Bogey City and fast.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) June 13, 2014
Now, the question is this: If Woods held the same lead, would we want him to falter as well?
Not a chance.
Woods is a player everyone wants to see shatter records in each tournament appearance. Whether you like the comparison or not, he's the current generation's version of Jack Nicklaus.
Even when Woods isn't participating, he's on everyone's mind. That was certainly the case for Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports on Friday:
Martin Kaymer is going Tiger-at-Pebble-in-2000 on the US Open field. My goodness.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) June 13, 2014
Despite his off-course issues, his fall from the world's No. 1 ranking and his inability to win a major over the last six years, Woods is still the absolute largest draw in the golfing world.
Simply looking back at the viewership from the 2014 Masters says it all.
According to Pete Madden of Golf.com, the 7.8 rating of the tournament's final round was down 24 percent from the previous year's numbers. In fact, it was the lowest rating of all final rounds since Mickelson's win in 2004.
Again, this isn't to say the U.S. Open isn't worth watching. Mickelson, phenom Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy are still going strong. However, the threat of Tiger surging up the leaderboard severely dampens the tournament's atmosphere.
That notion is reflected in this year's U.S. Open ticket prices. According to Kyle Porter of CBS Sports, the tournament sold out; although, four-day passes could be acquired for as little as $335 on StubHub.com.
Go ahead and take one guess as to why those prices may be a little low.
When it's all said and done, one thing is for certain: The golfing world needs Tiger Woods. The networks need the ratings, the tour needs the money and the fans need the excitement.
We'll still undoubtedly see some stellar golf played over the remaining rounds of the tournament, but without Woods in the field, the allure of the weekend's action will continue to suffer.