Show will go on without Tiger

The Masters is one of the few tournaments on the planet that can cope with the absence of the game's biggest attraction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 8:14pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 8:14pm

Rumour has it that 96 golfers will still show up this coming week in Augusta. The crowds are still expected to be overflow, the corporate hospitality tents as well.

The green jackets will still be green, the magnolias pink and cream white. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus will still try to summon up a bit of the past and stiff-arm the first shot of the tournament.

The winner will still get US$1.4 million and a chance to join the ranks of the game's immortals, and for so many of us the Masters will once again signal the official start of the golfing season.

He brings a buzz like no golfer ever has and after his enormously high-profile antics a few years back, he has become one of the most polarising figures in sport
Tim Noonan

It's all there, same as it ever was.

There is, however, one thing missing this year. For the first time since 1995, Tiger Woods will not be competing at Augusta because he has decided to shut things down and have back surgery.

For the past 19 years every single Masters has basically been two events; one for Tiger and one for the rest of the field.

Even when he competed as a highly prized amateur in 1995 and 1996, he still dominated the headlines and one year later in his first Masters as a pro, Tiger came in at 18 under par to set a tournament record that still stands almost 17 years later.

Yeah, he's been around that long.

People, Tiger is old. He's 38 going on 60. Every part of his body seems to have broken down at one time or another and you are free to speculate why.

Some say his swing has been so forceful and violent that it's inevitable his back would give out.

Others claim he spent far too much time in the weight room over the years building the kind of bulk and strength that is completely unnatural and unnecessary for golf.

And you are most certainly entitled to believe, as many do, that the pattern his body is systematically breaking down in is quite common among athletes who have abused performance-enhancing drugs over the years.

I have no idea if it's true, but it certainly is plausible.

The only thing that is certain is that golf is weaker for his absence. The Masters is one of the few tournaments that can flourish without him.

By the back nine on Sunday, chances are we won't hear his name and rightly so. The final round at the Masters never needs any additional drama and this year should be no exception.

Other tournaments are not so lucky and the lack of Tiger can render many events somewhat insignificant.

He brings a buzz like no golfer ever has and after his enormously high-profile antics a few years back, he has become one of the most polarising figures in sport.

Love him or hate him, you do watch him.

Oh and lest we forget, he is still the number one ranked golfer in the world and not by a little either. He is coming off a year in which he had five victories in a career that has seen him ranked number one for 677 weeks.

Come next week unless number two ranked Adam Scott wins, it will be 678.

So while he has not won a coveted major since 2008 and sits stalled at 14 career majors, four behind Nicklaus' 18, Tiger is still the best golfer in the world.

He just is no longer the most dominant or intimidating golfer in the world, at least not any more. I can live with that. Can you?

I enjoy watching the guy play and a major just doesn't seem like a major unless he's competing in it.

He is still infuriatingly petulant and largely unapologetic and I would not necessarily want him as my best pal. But win or lose, he is raw. There is nothing hidden in his mannerisms, at least not on the course.

Speculation is rife now that he will never catch Nicklaus' record. But at the very least I hope he wins one or two more majors to get close.

In a sport truly lacking in compelling characters, Tiger is still the undisputed box-office champ and now that he has morphed into this kind of dark knight of golf, it would have been fascinating to see him and defending champion Scott go head to head on Sunday at Augusta.

The affable Scott is a marketing dream and if you don't like him, you don't like people. And Tiger is, well, Tiger.

But that clash in styles and personalities will have to wait for another year.

For now, we are all about to glance into the future and find out what the world of big-time golf will look like without Tiger Woods. Good, bad or indifferent.