Game of golf survives without Tiger roar

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the final round of the Masters. (April 10, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since

AUGUSTA, Ga.

It turns out that they are, in fact, going to hold the Masters again next year, the second weekend in April. Also, the news has trickled in that the U.S. Open will not be canceled this year. The British Open will find a way to soldier on and so will the PGA Championship. Contrary to conventional wisdom, golf has not shut down because Tiger Woods isn't Superman any more.

It is enough that he is human.

There is a new, compelling appeal to Woods now that he hasn't won a tournament in 17 months and hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. He is more like the rest of us now, trying like heck and not being sure if it's going to work out.

Woods gave it quite a go Sunday, as he often seems to do, usually in the majors and almost always at Augusta. His galvanizing 31 on the front nine and brief hold on a piece of the lead turned another Sunday at the Masters into a terrific show. The television ratings probably will be great because he was such a big part of it.

He didn't win, though, and golf goes on. The sport is not going out of business just because it is no longer a sure thing that he ever will match Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 career major championships. Golf will endure even if Woods never wins another title. The game has been going for centuries and it still will be going long after Woods retires as an honorary starter here.

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Someday, people will talk not only about the way he took golf by the lapels when he won going away as a 21-year-old, but also how he looked like he was going to take the tournament Sunday by the throat. Take it from this observer, the explosion of sound around the eighth green when he made an eagle -- cutting what was once a seven-shot deficit to one -- was the loudest in golf in quite a while.

The earlier Tiger would have kept the momentum going and made everyone else shake. That doesn't happen anymore. This Tiger misses a 3-foot par putt on No. 12 and a 4-foot eagle putt on No. 15. This Tiger finishes an hour before the leaders and waits in vain that they all stub their toes (they didn't). He finished tied for fourth, four strokes back.

"I should have shot an easy 3- or 4-under on the back nine and I only posted even," he said, while the outcome was still uncertain. "But I'm right there in the thick of it."

If you want to bemoan the departure of the old days, when Woods was a one-man sport, be my guest. You're not alone. When Woods took a hiatus because of his personal problems and when he failed to bounce back into his dominant form, there was a lot of focus -- on TV, in print publications, over the Internet -- that golf's day was done. There probably were people who felt the same way when Bobby Jones retired from competitive golf and pursued a wacky dream of starting up a club and an invitational tournament in Augusta. I think things are fine the way they are.

Yes, Woods has promoted golf and enlivened it since the 1997 Masters, when he "captured everyone's imaginations," to quote Rory McIlroy, while he was still a Masters leader Saturday night. But let's face it, golf never did ride the Dominant Tiger boom like people thought it would a decade ago.

No wave of young minority pros ever followed him onto the Tour.

But golf will keep rolling. There might never be another Tiger Woods, but there never was another Bobby Jones or Jack Nicklaus, either. There will be someone else. For now, there's a different, more vulnerable Woods. He, and the game he plays, are worth watching.

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