By Matt Hombach
There’s no doubt Tiger Woods' absence from competition will have a profound effect on the remainder of the PGA Tour season. Top players are salivating at the chance to score victories and rack up prize money that otherwise would have been lapped up by the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer. Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Ernie Els and others have to be downright giddy at the chance to etch their names on the FedEx Cup with Woods out for the season.
But not everyone will be happy. Media analysts have predicted that with Woods out of the picture for the remainder of 2008, television ratings for golf events will slip significantly. According to the PGA Tour, TV ratings increase by an average of 26 percent when Woods is in the hunt on Sunday.
Joe Rahnis (left), general manager of the Woodlands/Diamond Ridge with Paul Spahn, winner of the 2008 summer shootout.
A recent example of the power Woods has on the viewing public is well illustrated by the ratings numbers from the 2008 Memorial Tournament. Woods missed the Memorial this year, and viewership for the tournament dropped more than 30 percent from 2007 when he teed it up at Jack Nicklaus’ annual event.
Golf industry experts have speculated that participation in the sport from casual golfers may slip without Woods’ exciting influence on the game. When he came onto the scene in the late 1990s, he attracted many new players to the sport.
Some Baltimore area golfers agree Woods has a strong influence on their golf viewing habits, but said his left knee will have little effect on how much they play. Alex Levine, an avid golfer from Baltimore who routinely plays Mount Pleasant and Greystone, said the Woods-free telecasts will still draw his attention, but more casual golf fans might tune out.
“I’ll still follow golf on TV, but it will really make a difference how much my wife watches it with me,” Levine said. “If he’s in contention, she’s definitely tuned it. I just feel fortunate to be able to watch him play. It’s kind of like getting the chance to watch Babe Ruth in his prime; he’s a legend.”
Levine said that with Woods not teeing it up anytime soon, it would affect the amount of golf he’ll play.
“I will probably end up playing more golf with Tiger out,” he said. “Whenever he was in contention on Sunday, I would stay home and watch instead of playing myself. Now I can play on Sunday afternoons and not feel like I’m missing anything.”
Lynne Padussis from Pasadena, a member of Hunter’s Run in Harford County, indicated Woods’ sabbatical will have little bearing on her play.
“I’m a very avid golfer and usually get in four or five rounds a week,” Padussis said. “I love to watch Tiger play, but it won’t affect my interest in playing myself. My regular group usually plays on weekend mornings, then watches golf together in the clubhouse after we play. It will be a little less exciting without Tiger playing, but we love golf and will still keep watching.”
While Padussis and her group will still tune in, she admitted some of the excitement is gone when Woods isn’t playing.
“The guy is just magical, you never know what he’ll do next,” she said. “When he and Rocco Mediate were playing in the U.S. Open, I was glued to it. It was just so exciting to watch.”
When Woods came on the scene more than a decade ago, most of the golfers he drew to the sport were teenagers who were close to his age. Matthew Greenspan, a 13-year-old golfer from Sparks, is a big fan of Woods and will miss watching him play.
“I don’t think I’ll want to watch much at all without Tiger in it,” Greenspan said before teeing off at Greystone in White Hall with two friends. “But I will still play a lot because I just love to golf.”
U.S. kids tour rolls into Maryland
The U.S. Kids Golf Local Tours were created to offer boys and girls, ages 5-12 the opportunity to advance their skills in the game in age-appropriate competition without having to take the time and incur the travel costs that other junior tours require.
Young golfers from the Baltimore area compete in the “Dover Area” tour that is contested at courses throughout Delaware and eastern Maryland.
The Local Tours are part of U.S. Kids Golf's overall mission: to help youngsters have fun learning the game at an early age and to encourage family interaction that fosters fun competition and a lifelong interest in the sport. Remaining stops on the Dover Area tour include:
July 8 -- Frog Hollow Golf Course
July 15 -- Mount Branch Golf Course
July 22 -- Chesapeake Golf Club
Aug. 5 -- Brandywine Golf Club
Aug. 12 -- Ed “Porky” Oliver Golf Course
Aug. 19 -- Tour Championship at Chesapeake Golf Club
For more information or to register a youngster for tournaments or to host a tournament, visit www.USKidsGolf.com.
Spahn wins shootout
Catonsville resident Paul Spahn stuck an 8-iron to just 5 inches from the hole from 135 yards to win Baltimore County Golf’s Summer Shootout. The event was recently held at the Woodlands/Diamond Ridge driving range, and hundreds of golfers took their shots at a wide array of prizes.
For his efforts, Spahn took home a SkyCaddie SG5 unit and two passes to the AT&T National Tournament. He was also a top finisher in the shootout last year.
Spahn bested Dave Yanchich, who stuck a shot earlier in the day just 20 inches from the hole. Yanchich took home a $100 gift certificate. Third-place finisher John Seto won a $50 gift certificate.
Top finishers in the Summer Shootout: Paul Spahn, 5 inches; Dave Yanchich, 1 foot, 8 inches; John Seto, 2 feet, 3 inches; Jonathan Nam, 2 feet, 5 inches; Peter Hong. 2 feet, 8 inches; Travon Price, 2 feet, 11 inches; Bryan Martin, 3 feet, 7 inches; Jeff Rubin, 3 feet, 9 inches; Mike Hwang, 5 feet, 11 inches.
Issue 3.28: July 10, 2008