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Woods may find it difficult to recapture old dominance

india Updated: Dec 13, 2009 01:42 IST
Simon Evans

Although most experts expect Tiger Woods to return to golf after his proposed indefinite break they also believe it will be difficult for him to regain the dominance he enjoyed before revelations of his infidelity.

Over the past decade few have paid much attention to the sport's official world rankings.

Everyone has just known Tiger is number one and his ascendancy has been such that he maintained top spot throughout his eight-month injury absence last year.

At the moment, left-hander Phil Mickelson is ranked second with fellow-American Steve Stricker third and Britain's Lee Westwood and Irishman Padraig Harrington following.

Each of that quartet will fancy their chances of winning more tournaments, picking up more prize money and taking a bigger share of the limelight now that Tiger is away from the tour.

It is not only on the course where golfers will see new opportunities. In the world of endorsements and advertising, the phasing out of Tiger during his absence, will allow other faces to take up magazine space and television commercial time.

Mickelson in particular, may find the commercial opportunities increase because of his wholesome image.

The players as a whole, though, may lose out if sponsors, many of whom have their contracts run out after the 2010 season, turn their backs on a sport without Woods.

When Woods does return the big question will be whether or not he is the same player who won 14 majors and 71 PGA Tour events.


Even before he announced his break from the sport, senior figures in the game were questioning whether Woods would be able to maintain his supremacy.

"There was an aura, and that wall, if you like, has been split slightly, so there are cracks and I feel that it gives us more opportunity of winning these big events now," said Europe's Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie.

"I think the mystique has gone, the mysterious nature of the guy has gone. He is suddenly, I hate to say, more normal now -- if that is normal!

"There is a mystique which has been lost now and let's hope that golf isn't damaged by that and it shouldn't be."

Certainly, the view that Woods would comfortably pick up the five more major wins he needs to surpass Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 now looks questionable.

It is not clear whether he will play in next year's majors and it also remains to be seen whether Woods will be back to face Europe in the Ryder Cup in September.

But it is that very uncertainty, created by the phrase "indeterminate" in Woods's statement about his break, that will ensure he remains the most talked about golfer in the game even when he is not playing.