PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said golf will survive no matter how long Tiger Woods stays away to sort out his personal life, and that a portrait of "gloom and doom" is misleading.
In the midst of a shocking sex scandal, Woods is taking an indefinite leave from competition to try to save his marriage, leaving the sport without its biggest star as it tries to cope with a downturn in the economy.
"I want him to come back and play," Finchem said Thursday in a conference call. "But we are going to be successful in ’10. If Tiger is out for a couple of months or eight months of a year, we’re going to have a successful year. … It won’t be at the same levels without our No. 1 player, there’s no question about that," he said. "No sport would be at the same level without its No. 1 player. But I think the doom and gloom needs to go away."
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Finchem said six of the highest-performing tournaments, which he based on net revenue donated to charity, have not had Woods in the field during the last several years. He also said the cumulative number of viewers during a PGA Tour event did not decrease even when Woods missed the second half of 2008 with knee surgery.
"I’m not saying that I think everything is fine," Finchem said. "We’re in a down economy. It’s hard to sell. And having the No. 1 player in our sport not play is not a positive thing, and it does hurt television ratings. But I look at it in the reverse. I look at Tiger spiking ratings off of a significantly solid base when he plays … and I want that spike. And I certainly want the attention he brings to the sport."
The attention has shifted dramatically since a Nov. 27 car accident outside his Florida home, setting off sensational details of extramarital affairs that have tarnished sports’ biggest star.
Finchem said it was the biggest "curveball" he has dealt with in his 15 years as commissioner.