"This weekend the Byron Nelson Championship is the tree falling in the empty forest. No sound. No Tiger. Nobody cares."
Nobody, except for the tens of thousands of fans who lined the fairways, chased the leaders, filled the grandstands, and partied through the steamy hot Dallas afternoons. Thursday through Sunday they filled the course.
The fans, 265,000 of them, came and watched as
It's true, the TV ratings for non-Tiger events are not as heavy as they are when Woods tees it up. That's a measurable thing -- it's indisputable and I don't think anybody is saying any different. You saw last week at the Players Championship how monstrous the TV ratings were. Not since 2001 -- a Woods win, of course -- had we seen such ratings for the Players.
But to say golf doesn't matter when Tiger isn't playing is to say a post-Tiger golfing world is incapable of supporting itself. Which, obviously, is absurd.
Golf had been a professional success long before Tiger Woods introduced himself to the world and it will continue long after he plays his last event. It is true to say that a rising tide lifts all boats, and Woods is that tide.
But the boats aren't going anywhere.
I walked the TPC Four Seasons almost every day this week and what I saw were people paying money to get into a golf event that only included one of the top 11 golfers in the world. What I saw were people buying beer and merchandise and encouraging their kids to get the autographs of golfers they probably didn't even know.
The reason for all of this, of course, is because watching golf (and sports generally) is rarely ever only about watching golf.
No, coming to a golf tournament is about, well, a lot of the time it's about everything but the actual golf.
Sure, people pay attention as the pairings come down the back stretch on Sunday, but the rest of the time -- the other six and a half days -- are about an excuse to have fun.
A reason to get outside and relive the war stories of our careers as youth sportsmen (and sportswomen) while we hang with dad or our friends. Heck, golf might be the best reason to do this.
We often use sports as an excuse to escape reality, and if my events can be live and I can bring friends and there's beer, that's even better.
Nobody needs Tiger Woods for that.