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Tiger Makes Impact with Absence

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The season-ender and the season-opener --Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson skipped both. Thats not the kind of streak we were hoping to talk about this week. We were promised a New Era. Instead, were getting the same cross wind that blew through the TOUR Championship in November.

This hurts the TOUR. It hurts our network, because no one moves the ratings needle like Tiger. But lets be clear: If this is what Tiger needs to do to ensure that he keeps delivering at peak efficiency when he does play, then so be it. Tiger never, ever cheats the game when hes in it. He doesnt play for a team, has no coach, general manager or owner mandating his schedule.

Naturally, we all want him to play because hes entertaining. But Tiger doesnt play to merely entertain. He plays to win and if he feels he cant prepare in a manner which best sets him up to do that then he just wont step into the arena. Tigers formula -- to be well rested and ready when it counts the most -- is a proven winner.

The questions been raised: Does Tiger, as the No. 1 star in the sport, have a responsibility to be here? First, he has a responsibility to his family. He has a responsibility to his charitable foundation, and that means staging his own event in conjunction with Target just before Christmas. Like it or not, Tiger has a responsibility to his marketing partners. In the case of Nike, Tiger uses November to travel to China and Japan, growing the brand and the game in a way no one else can. It all translates to a need for down time just when the PGA TOUR is starting its season. What about, you might ask, his responsibility to the fans? Its just awfully hard to make the case that hes been anything but a gift to this sport and its fans over the last decade.

And yet, with so much emphasis on the majors, golf runs the risk of looking like tennis -- a hodgepodge of big money affairs that scatters players across the globe, attracting serious interest only four times a year. So, at the very least, it would be helpful if the superstars -- who campaigned for and were granted the shorter season ahead -- gave extra consideration to the season-opener and the season-ender.

On the plus side, if Tiger now plays and wins all the events most believe hell enter, he could break Byron Nelson's record (11 straight PGA TOUR wins) at the Masters. That, of course, would generate a much different kind of dialogue.

Email your thoughts to Rich Lerner