We're five weeks into a new golf season that is creating as much buzz as a Wilmer Valderrama film at Sundance.
Ever since Tiger Woods drove his SUV into a fire hydrant 50 feet from his driveway, golf attention and news has shifted from the tee box to the tabloids. In the two and-a-half months since that night, we've heard Tiger was in Sweden, Arizona, Long Island and finally in Mississippi where he was allegedly released from sex rehab last week.
Meanwhile, on the PGA Tour, Ryan Palmer, Bill Haas and Ben Crane were winning golf tournaments. Paint also dried.
Steve Stricker and Geoff Ogilvy, both top ten players, also won tournaments but neither provided the necessary star power to bring the buzz back to the course. Instead, we continue to wonder where Tiger is and when he's coming back? And most importantly, an 'indefinite break' ends before the Masters, right?
The initial reaction to the Tiger story from the golf community was, unsurprisingly, silence. Tiger has always been notoriously private and reportedly aloof with his peers. The deal between them was fairly straight forward: he made them all obscenely rich and they stayed out of his way. Amongst tour players Tiger's private life, at least on the record, was 'Fight Club' and we all know the first rule of 'Fight Club'.
Shortly after the scandal broke Jesper Parnevik criticized Woods but that was expected and understandable, as Jesper employed Tiger's wife Elin as a babysitter and played a role in introducing the couple.
Then in late December Sergio spoke out. And then Geoff Ogilvy did too. Both did the previously unthinkable and actually discussed the personal life of Tiger Woods, with Ogilvy going as far as trying to suggest Tiger owed it to the tour to hold a press conference away from the course before he comes back. (In what must have been rock-bottom for Woods, John Daly even offered some advice.)
The comments from Sergio, Ogilvy and more recently Tom Watson all made me raise an eyebrow. Why would they risk ticking Tiger off? Do they really want him extra motivated when he comes back? Are they trying to see if he can win a tournament by 20 shots?
It just didn't make sense. Tiger is the best. By a mile. If the players encouraged a rapid comeback or goaded him into returning, their earnings would take a monumental hit. Their chances of winning would significantly decrease. Why wouldn't they take advantage of the moment and let a sleeping Tiger lye? Why would they disobey 'The Code'?
All good questions that only lead to one answer: they, like us, are scared Tiger may not be back for a while. And while that may be positive for their personal bank accounts in the short-term, in the long-run, with a new television deal on the horizon and several title-sponsorships in question, it could be disastrous.
It was in 1996 that a 20 year-old Tiger burst onto the scene and announced his arrival with the words "Hello, world". For professional golf to snap out of its current funk, Tiger will need to have a rebirth. Soon.