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Life Outside of Tiger

Ernie Els shot 12-under 60 in Round 1 of the Heineken Classic Thursday at Royal Melbourne. And youre going to tell me that Tiger Woods is the only thing that matters to a PGA Tour event and its success? Lets think about that for a minute.
Tiger played at the Mercedes Championships and hasnt been seen since. And while hes been away, Ernie successfully defended his title at the Sony Open, Phil Mickelson gave his confidence a victorious boost and provided us with hope that hes onto something other than a new fitness program, and Vijay Singh continues to prove that he might just be the best player in the world ' at this very moment.
Since 2000, Vijay has more top 10s (54) than any player on the PGA Tour. Tiger has 52 and Phil has 46. Its important to note, however, that Vijay has played 111 events during that time while Woods has teed it up just 76 times.
So what do we make of this? Tiger makes the most of his appearances and is, and always will be a tough cat to recruit.
Tiger didnt play at the Sony Open. Did the tournament covet him? Yes. Did network television miss him? Of course! Was it a terrific event anyway? Yes. Ernie Els won it, Harrison Frazar made him earn it; Michelle Wie won our praise and golf fans won anyway.
Tiger didnt play at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He never has. Did network television miss him? Of course! Was it compelling theater anyway? Cmon. Mickelson found his way back to a trophy ceremony, Skip Kendall made like Frazar and I watched every Sunday minute.
Tiger didnt make it to the FBR Open. Its been a few years. Does network television feel jipped? Probably. Was there some intrigue on Sunday without him? Please. If you couldnt find reason to fancy Jonathan Kayes run to a second PGA Tour title, you had another ride on Mickelsons rollercoaster, DiMarcos run with the birdies and the boo-birds, and a leaderboard that also included Vijay (imagine that) and Mike Weir. Sundays attendance, by the way, was the best in tournament history.
This week, Tiger isnt playing at Pebble Beach. Hes a past champion, and steamrolled the field at Pebble in the 2000 U.S. Open as well. Is CBS crying foul? Theyd love a different scenario, certainly. But ticket sales are up without him.
Ive got a suggestion for those of you who think its the Tiger Tour. Open your eyes. This PGA Tour is far more than just Tiger. If you dont believe meask him. Els is a superstar, ditto Singh whos a virtual lock for contention; Mickelson could be ranked 50th in the world and is still worth the price of admission and a few ratings points as well. And not liking Davis Love is un-American.
My head isnt buried so deep in the sand to think that the PGA Tour would have the same intrigue without Woods. And yes, hes driving the bus. Tournaments crave his completed registration form. But when the bus is pulled over for a few weeksenjoy the stars who are chasing him. Enjoy the great players who are chasing their first PGA Tour win. And get into the run towards the Ryder Cup because Hal Sutton has 11 other spots up for grabs.
Its the networks job to sell you on tour events without Woods. Its the PGA Tours job to promote its others and make them household names. If I dare to hop into TGCs chat room I know Ill be overwhelmed by many of you who either 1) find reason to call Woods over-rated or 2) find fault with the networks (TGC included) for over-exposing the man who has seemingly held the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking since Reagan was in office.
Maybe your head is buried in a bunker. Woods is everything hes cracked up to be. But so is the PGA Tour. Is their slogan, Only this guy is good? Hardly.
By the way, Tigers bus rolls into Torrey Pines next week. I cant wait!
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann