SBD/Issue 64/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Tiger On Hiatus: Woods Taking Indefinite Break From Pro Golf

Woods Says He Will Focus On Being A "Better
Husband, Father, And Person" During Break
Tiger Woods Friday said he has "decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf." In a statement posted on his Web site, Woods said, "I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person." He added, "I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. ... I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding. What's most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing." PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem later Friday evening issued a statement in response to Woods' announcement, saying, "We fully support Tiger's decision to step away from competitive golf to focus on his family. His priorities are where they need to be, and we will continue to respect and honor his family's request for privacy. We look forward to Tiger's return to the PGA Tour when he determines the time is right for him" (THE DAILY).

LEAVING A HUGE HOLE: In L.A., Kraft & Pucin reported Woods' decision will "have the most immediate impact on the PGA Tour, which already has been losing sponsorships and is in desperate need of his drawing power as it prepares to begin a new season." Woods' break is "likely to have a devastating effect on TV ratings for golf, which is a stable of sports programming for the big broadcast networks." When Woods took an eight-month break from golf to recover from a leg injury after the '08 U.S. Open, "many events on the PGA Tour saw catastrophic ratings declines." Author John Feinstein said, "By himself, Tiger is probably 50% of golf. Will the PGA Tour fold up and go away? No. But they have some serious issues. There is a little bit of panic" (L.A. TIMES, 12/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Walker & Albergotti noted Woods' hiatus is a "serious blow to the sport of golf, which has relied on Mr. Woods's star power to drive television ratings and sell sponsorships" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/12). In Orlando, Josh Robbins noted Woods' departure will "deprive the tour of its top attraction at a critical time," as it copes with the "adverse effects of the nation's greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/12). In N.Y., Larry Dorman notes most of the Tour's "larger purses directly result from higher revenue from title sponsors, and the PGA Tour is in the midst of negotiating new deals with the sponsors of a dozen events that will expire by the end of 2010." So uncertainty about Woods' future will have a "negative impact on the negotiations" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/14).

Oberholser Believes Woods' Hiatus
Will Be A Huge Hit To The Tour
PGA TOUR'S LOSS: Golfer Arron Oberholser said, "You may have heard a collective, 'Oh s-!' from Ponte Vedra. Let's be honest here: Tiger moves the needle. As much as I like Phil (Mickelson) and as much as I think he's a superstar, he doesn't move the needle like Tiger does. It's going to be a huge hit to the tour." Oberholser added, "I just hope we don't have a lot of contracts up for renegotiation, because we're definitely not sitting in the catbird seat. It's hard to sit across the table if someone asks, 'When is Tiger coming back?' and you have to say, 'We don't know'" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/12). Golfer Greg Norman said, "The tour has got to be worried because what's the definition of 'indefinite.' Does 'indefinite' mean, OK, it might be a year because a lot of issues have got to be resolved. That's the word you've got to kind of drill in on" (NAPLES NEWS, 12/12). Golfer Steve Stricker said, "We need him out here because of sponsorships and just the awareness in our Tour in general" (PGATOUR.com, 12/12). ESPN's Mike Tirico: “If you take the best player, the most recognized player, the one that transcended the fans of the sport to general sports fans and even non-sports fans -- when you take that person out of the day-to-day competition, it can’t help the sport” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 12/11). Bergen Record columnist Ian O'Connor: "This is an unmitigated disaster for the PGA Tour" ("The Early Show," CBS, 12/12).

TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT: In N.Y. Mark Cannizzaro wrote if Woods "isn't playing and TV ratings dip dramatically, more sponsors will pull out and that could lead to fewer events" on Tour. PGA Tour execs are "holding their collective breath right now for a speedy Woods return." Also, fans "can be sure that every player on the PGA Tour has his fingers crossed for the same, because Woods' presence lines everyone's pockets with money" (N.Y. POST, 12/13). Tirico said, “When you take the meal ticket of the Tour away from the Tour for a while, it will certainly damage the product.” Tirico: “We know the casual fans come to the TV when Tiger plays, … and that’s not going to be there. That hurts the sport, that hurts the Tour at a time when things are not great in general for sports." ESPN.com's Bob Harig: "Despite all that’s been going on, he’d have been a huge draw, and he will be whenever he comes back. When Tiger isn’t playing, it isn’t good for the PGA Tour. You saw that in the second half of 2008, when he missed all that time after his knee surgery” ("SportsCenter,” ESPN, 12/11). ESPN.com's Jason Sobel wrote Woods "might not be bigger than the sport ... but he is the biggest thing going right now -- in any sport -- and any tournament without his name attached to the entry list will fail to pique the interest of many casual fans" (ESPN.com, 12/11). In New Orleans, Peter Finney: "It's accurate to say professional golf has never been so one-man-top-heavy as it is right now" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 12/13). In West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda wrote the Tour "needs Woods more than Woods needs it" (PALM BEACH POST, 12/13). But NBC's Gary Koch said of Phil Mickelson, “The Tour can certainly heap it on him a little bit and make a big deal of the fact that Phil is so fan friendly” (“Shark Shootout,” NBC, 12/12).

Woods' Indefinite Absence Could Cause Change
To Ways Tournaments Market Themselves
WHAT LIES AHEAD? YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote without Woods, the Tour "will be playing to half-full houses." It needs to "figure out how to market itself in the post-Tiger era a few years earlier than expected" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/12). In London, Mark Reason wrote golf "is running scared at the moment." IMG Golf Managing Dir for Europe, Asia and the Middle East Guy Kinnings said, "The impact will be on TV viewers and a few PGA Tour tournaments. Hospitality and the events associated with Tiger might be affected, but there will also be huge anticipation for his return" (London TELEGRAPH, 12/13). In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote, "Who knows what will happen here in Washington to the tournament in Woods's name that is scheduled to go to Philadelphia this year and next, then return to Washington in 2012. Who knows what the members at Congressional Country Club think now about being affiliated with a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods. The day before Thanksgiving, it was perhaps the most desired association in all of sports; now that TW logo might represent more baggage than anyone in the conservative golf community wants to carry" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/12). 

BEST THING TO DO: CBSSPORTS.com's Steve Elling wrote under the header, "Despite Immediate Pain, Tiger's Sabbatical Best For All In Long Run." His hiatus at least "buys the tour some respite from what would have been an endless crusade for more Woods-related player reaction." Woods has "dragged the tour and its players into the mud with him." The "splatter and collateral damage had not yet been tallied, but it was palpable." Tournaments already had begun to "examine whether it was wise to use Woods' image in their marketing campaigns for 2010" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/11). N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica admitted in the "short-run, golf is going to take a big hit." Lupica: "But that's part of his comeback. The comeback begins with people missing him, with people starting to mark time until he comes back whenever that is." He added Woods is "doing the right thing by going away because what he's doing now is he's changing the subject" ("Today," NBC, 12/14). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell: "This won't help the Tour as it tries to secure a new TV contract and renew title sponsorships in a bad economy. Really, though, this may be a case of short-term pain that's well worth the long-term gain" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 12/11).

SEEING SOME LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL: NBC’s Dan Hicks: “I think for the very first time through this whole ordeal there seems to be a little light at the end of the tunnel for perhaps closure on this whole saga. ... It seems like we might be able to move on here in the not so distant future” (“Shark Shootout,” NBC, 12/12). ESPN.com's Harig noted the drama surrounding Woods in recent weeks was the "elephant in the room at Woods' Chevron World Challenge" earlier this week. The story "isn't going away, but at least it is now on a path to ... somewhere" (ESPN.com, 12/12). 

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