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John's Blog: Does the PGA Tour need Tiger Woods?

Tiger Woods hits one of three ceremonial golf balls at Congressional Country Club, All three shots went into the water. (Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)

I had mixed emotions when reading Tiger Wood's announcement on his website that he's planning a return to competitive golf in October at the Safeway Open in Napa, CA. Here's what he said:

"My rehabilitation is to the point where I'm comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do," Tiger said. "Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go.

"I'm looking forward to going to California for my foundation event and Safeway. I'm also excited to return to Turkey and Albany. It could be a fun fall.

"It was difficult missing tournaments that are important to me, but this time I was smart about my recovery and didn't rush it. It was great spending time with my children Sam and Charlie, and also working on a lot of projects including golf-course design, the upcoming 20th anniversary of my foundation and my book about the 1997 Masters. But I missed competing. I want to thank all the fans for their kindness and concern. I've been a pro about 20 years, and their support has never waned."

On one hand, I miss Tiger. I wasn't old enough to really remember Jordan in his prime... I missed Ali and Tyson's domination, too... so to me and those my age (32), Tiger is the most dominant athlete we've ever seen with our own two eyes.

But that Tiger is gone. Two back surgeries have made sure of that.

If Woods does in fact make his return in Napa, it will have been 416 days since his last official tournament round. That time away from the game has dropped his world ranking to 711th - a far cry from the 545 consecutive weeks he spent at No. 1 (August 1999 - September 2004, June 2005 - October 2010).

Seeing what Tiger had become before taking this season off - in 2015 he missed the cut in three majors, and had major swing issues - begs this question: does the PGA Tour need Tiger Woods?

If you look at the top of the World Golf Rankings, the top four are Jason Day (28 years old), Dustin Johnson (32 years old), Rory McIlroy (27 years old), and Jordan Spieth (23 years old). All four are young, in their prime, and simply studs - having combined to win six of the last 12 major championships. Not as dominant as Tiger was in his heyday, but plenty good enough to provide compelling television. Plus, the parity on Tour right now is higher than ever - just outside the top four are Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, and Bubba Watson... those three have won four majors combined.

Maybe, the PGA Tour is at a point now where they are okay without Woods. That's a healthy place to be for any sports league - not reliant on any one athlete or team's domination.

You know who needs Tiger to be "Tiger" again? Nike. The sports apparel giant, who outfits both McIlroy and Woods, has announced plans to stop manufacturing golf clubs - although they will stay in the golf clothing and footwear markets.

Granted, Phil Knight doesn't need the money - but with McIlroy winning the Deutsche Bank Championship last weekend using Nike clubs, and a return to the course for Woods - maybe the sales will spike enough for Nike to reverse course and continue making golf clubs.

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