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U.S. Open: Fans Have Already Forgiven Tiger Woods

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - JUNE 14:  Tiger Woods and caddie Steve Williams look on from a tee during a practice round prior to the start of the 110th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 14, 2010 in Pebble Beach, California.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Brian ChappattaCorrespondent IIJune 15, 2010

The media feasts on conflict and controversy. 

So after feasting on turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, news organizations were happy to get a second helping when they caught wind that Tiger Woods was cheating on his wife.

That saga played out for the remainder of 2009 and well into 2010.

Now? Hardly a peep.

Golf fans are willing to forgive and forget. The sport is not nearly as exciting when the best player on the planet is absent from the course. Phil Mickelson winning is not quite as meaningful if he does not have to outplay Woods to do so.

Tiger is one of the greatest athletes of all time. He transcends the sport. Michael Jordan was the same way, as was Muhammad Ali. 

Why has the PGA skyrocketed in popularity? Woods.

Why has Nike become one of the behemoths of the golf industry? Woods.

Why do people go out of their way to watch Sunday golf instead of other sports? Woods.

Other athletes have been immersed in controversy and were unable to recover. Michael Vick was in a slightly different situation, but the former No. 1 pick is never going to be the same player he was in Atlanta.

Don't even start with baseball and steroids. Alex Rodriguez has managed to shake off admitting to taking steroids, but his career and potential entrance into the Hall of Fame will still be questioned.

The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane attacked a cab driver and has generally been a social deviant, but that's his image.

The best example to compare with Woods is Kobe Bryant, who faced rape charges in Colorado. Though sponsors distanced themselves from Bryant, just as Woods' sponsors did to him, they eventually came back once the debate heated up about if Kobe or LeBron was the best player in the NBA.

Woods will be the same. He has already gotten the tacit forgiveness of the general public because of how important he is to the game of golf. Sponsors are going to take more caution about reforging a tight bond with Woods. Within the next year or two, expect Tiger to be a focal point of several advertisements. 

That could come sooner if he wins another major. It will prove he's back, and rekindles talk about setting the new record for major championships, then the sponsors will return.

It seems Woods has learned his lesson. He's focusing on golf, which is a bad sign for the rest of the U.S. Open hopefuls.

And it's worse for the media. If they're expecting another dose of Woods controversy, they're likely going to leave with an empty stomach.

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