Let's play a game. How many tournaments would you watch in 2014 if the top 50 golfers in the world golf rankings weren't allowed to play?
Actually, let me answer that for you: One, the Masters.
We watch golf because we're intrigued by stars, big-time names and fun personalities. We want to see if Phil Mickelson can pull off the career slam or if Tiger Woods can ever resurrect his majors career.
We want to know who the next Tiger and Phil are, too. Will it be Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley?
We're fascinated by these things, which is why Rory McIlroy's struggles in 2013 were so bad for the sport. His was one name you could pretty much count on not being in big tournaments at the end.
I've been interested to watch him try and get it back in the past month -- he joked on Thursday in China that holding off Woods at their one-on-one event is the best thing he has done in a while but also noted recently that he feels like his game is coming around.
"I feel like I'm getting back to where I need to be and I'm excited about these next two weeks in China. They're two big weeks for me to get a little bit of momentum for the end of the season and going into 2014."
McIlroy is cocky and (at times) brash. Yet at the same time he's poised and mature and really, really good.
All of these things are incredibly intriguing. Golf needs Rory McIlroy, not the other way around (based on reports of how much McIlroy will make in 2014 from endorsements, anyway).
Tiger and Phil are the obvious ones, but what other personalities does golf need to be great for the sport to be operating at maximum efficiency?
Here's my list (with world ranking):
1. Rory McIlroy (No. 6): A five-win season for McIlroy would be the best thing that could happen to golf in 2014 outside of Woods winning one of the big four.
McIlroy understands this. On Thursday at the HSBC Championship he talked about the kind of perspective he has about his career.
"You know, the way I look at it, if I have a 25-year career, you know, nine months of a 25-year career isn't actually that long. If you look at in the time you play an 18-hole golf course, it's really a half a hole that you're struggling on," said McIlroy
2. Ian Poulter (No. 22): You probably hate him -- and if you don't just crank up those 2012 Ryder Cup higlights on YouTube -- but he's good for the sport. For every 50 Steve Strickers there's only one Poulter. His attire and taste are as wacky as it gets but that's kind of the point.
Nobody will remember this in 10 years but his insane run at the 2013 British Open carried that tournament before Lefty took the reins late in the day. Now if he can just get going earlier on in majors. ...
3. Rickie Fowler (No. 36): Between his love of fast cars and funky dress, he's America's more muted version of Ian Poulter.
He carries -- unfair or not -- the weight of a huge generation of young American golfers on his shoulders. If he's irrelavent, those people aren't going to migrate to Matt Kuchar. Golf needs him right now but the future of golf needs him more.
4. Sergio Garcia (No. 19): Golf doesn't need him to win -- it's actually more fun when he loses -- but when he's in tournaments on Sundays, it's good for the game.
Love him or hate him, you always watch him -- even if it's just to see him take 13 strokes on the final two holes at the Players Championship.
5. Bubba Watson (No. 29): I'm not totally sure I understand the Watson love but it's definitely there. He's an incredibly popular (and maybe polarizing?) figure in the sport.
Let's just say if 95 percent of the rest of golf world would have blown up like he did at the Travelers Championship it wouldn't have traveresed the Internet as fast as that video did. He's great for the popularity of the sport.