Following our annual holiday hiatus, we at The Golf Channel are now gearing up for the start of a new year and the resumption of the game that drives our existence. Can it truly be that the 2003 PGA Tour season is about to begin?
Actually, some would answer no. After all, what is the PGA Tour without Tiger Woods?
On Thursday in Maui, the new season tees off with the first round of the Mercedes Championships. While clearly expecting Tiger to lead the elite field of 2002 tournament winners, another network had arranged to televise the Mercedes live in prime time.
Our competition wont get the ratings it had hoped for as Tiger continues to recover from knee surgery and Phil Mickelson opts for more quality time at home with his family.
While the absence of the mens games two most compelling players may turn off some marginal golf fans, true fans cant wait to welcome back tournament golf.
There is plenty to fill the Tiger/Phil void. The ratings should get quite a boost just from those who want to see what exotically wild outfit Rich Beem will wear this time in Hawaii.
Youngsters such as Charles Howell, Luke Donald, Jonathan Byrd and Matt Kuchar are playing the Mercedes for the first of probably several times. Theyre bound to have an impact on this New Year.
Guys like Chris DiMarco, Jerry Kelly, Len Mattiace and Chris Smith seem poised to bounce from their springboard seasons into greatness and onto Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams.
Then, there are the usual suspects this week: Ernie, Sergio, Vijay and Rocco all first-name celebrities. Add in the likes of Nick Price, Jim Furyk, Justin Leonard and Jose Maria Olazabal and you can see why golfs ga-ga fans are wowee for Maui.
Meanwhile, we can expect to see Phil tee it up on tour when the tour returns to the mainland. It seems the earliest Tiger will rejoin the Tour is Feb. 13 for the Buick Invitational.
If you want to watch the worlds best before then, tune in to Fridays Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Tiger is scheduled to appear with one of the actors from the latest Harry Potter film hmmmm a fantasy sorcerer and a true magician.