The Tiger Woods that dominated professional golf is dead.
You can see it in his eyes. You can feel it in his demeanor. You can tell by the way he is currently golfing.
Tiger's mind is not on his game right now.
Nor should it be. Anyone who has gone through a divorce, been in a custody battle, and endured the legal battle surrounding those issues knows that the stress coupled with them is all-encompassing. You think of nothing else.
In Tiger's case, attached to all of that is the glaring spotlight of the world's media constantly reminding and questioning him of the turmoil in his personal life. There is no escape from it.
Not even on the golf course, where Woods once reigned supreme.
Golf is not a physical contest. It is a mental game—and with the state of Tiger's mind for the past year, it is no wonder his game is suffering tremendously.
Tiger should realize this by now. He should know he can't play his way through this. So the big question is, why is he attempting to? Why is Tiger golfing?
Could it be that the PGA is forcing his hand?
With Tiger being a non-factor in this PGA season, television ratings have tumbled. This year's British Open lured about 60 percent of the viewership it did compared to the 2009 version. Coupled with that, the ratings for final rounds in Majors this year are down six percent.
To add to those woes, advertising revenue for the PGA's broadcast partners has dropped as well. It is already off by $8 million, and some estimates state that it could be down as much as 20 percent from last season. Both AT&T and UBS pulled their sponsorships from PGA events, while other PGA events have gone without a title sponsor at all.
Tiger's off-the-course fiasco hasn't helped his one-time sponsors either. For example, EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 game couldn't approach the top 10 in sales the month it was released. It shows you why some sponsors dropped him completely.
The PGA now realizes, if it didn't know this already, that Woods was its major draw for viewers. He had the star quality that drew non-PGA fans to their televisions.
Perhaps this is why Tiger continues to golf even when his heart is not in it: The PGA needs him.
Despite taking time off to deal with his personal problems, Tiger returned to the PGA much sooner than most predicted. Could it be that the PGA begged him to return due to the dire ratings and profit it was losing with each non-Tiger tournament played?
Could the PGA have said to Woods, in effect, we protected you (and continue to) during this scandal; now it's time to give a little something back?
Tiger's no dummy. He realized what he had lost already in endorsements and what he stood to lose in a divorce settlement. He could ill-afford to irk the PGA (and the sponsors that stood by him) more than he had already.
These two business entities—the PGA and Tiger Woods, Inc.—need each other to survive. That's where the deal may have been struck to get Woods back on the links much sooner than he was prepared.
Now, Woods may be forced in playing in the Ryder Cup, someplace he has no business being at this stage. But without Tiger, will anyone watch and/or care about it?
People seem to be tuning in to golf merely to watch Woods collapse each week. The PGA's broadcast partners (ESPN, CBS, etc.) are willing to promote that, fully knowing that a bad Tiger Woods is still a Tiger Woods people want to see and talk about.
But that fun may soon end. With a spot on the Ryder Cup—should his poor play continue—golf may suffer a bit of a backlash that could cripple its already fading spot in the sports world's collective mind.
Perhaps if tapped to be on the team, Woods will back out. It would be a wise move, as would taking the rest of the 2010 season off to get his mind right.
But the beck and call of the PGA, the sponsors, and the big money attached to it all may play a bigger role in the continuing Tiger Woods melodrama being played out on the golf course each week.
It may ultimately make him stronger, or it may outright destroy him.
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