Tiger Woods’ absence would have no impact on British Open attendance, R&A official claims

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The British Open -- like the Masters and likely the U.S. Open -- will go on as planned, even if Tiger Woods can’t make it to Hoylake.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Tiger Woods’ absence will have no negative affect on [fill in the blank] because after all, the [fill in the blank] is the [fill in the blank].

"There’s no doubt that Tiger Woods’ impact on the game of golf is huge and he is still a massive draw, but we’ve had [British] Opens without him before, in 2008 and 2011," Malcolm Booth, spokesperson for the R&A, told the Daily Mail earlier this week. "The Open has always drawn a great crowd and we are sure we will again this year. We saw huge novelty and excitement in 2006 when we returned for the first time since 1967."

Hmm. That sounds pretty much like what CBS Sports chair Sean McManus said about Augusta before Woods missed the first Masters in his professional career and look what happened there. Ticket prices took a dive, TV ratings tanked, and because of that and expectations that Tiger’s DL stint will last through at least the U.S. Open, the golf industry suddenly found itself in a $15 billion hole.

"When Tiger is in the Masters, there’s going to be a spike in the ratings," McManus acknowledged. "Will we miss the spike of not having Tiger there in the ratings? I’m sure we probably will but I’m not overly concerned that we’re ... going to have a tournament that’s not going to be the highest rated of all the golf tournaments in America."

Booth, unlike McManus, can still hope that Woods is healthy enough to make it to Hoylake, where the world No. 1 captured the Claret Jug in 2006, though an appearance by golf’s star attraction remains a long shot. Woods has begun chipping and putting and is recovering well, according to his agent Mark Steinberg, who also promised only a vague timeframe of "this summer" for his client to return to competition.

The Open Championship will visit Hoylake for the first time since 2006 and Woods said prior to his back surgery in March that he liked his chances on the course that yielded major title No. 11. He said the same about Augusta, where he has been measured for four green jackets, and the site of the final major of the season.

"As far as the major championships, I've won at every one [Augusta, Hoylake, and Valhalla for the PGA Championship] except for Pinehurst [site of the U.S. Open in June], and I'm trending in the right way. I've finished third [at the Open in 1999], second [2005]. You get the picture, right?" Woods said last year.

"So I'm looking forward to the major championship venues this year," said Tiger, who, in addition to his Masters victories and Open Championship at Hoylake, won the 2000 PGA at Valhalla. "They have set up well for me over the years and I look forward to it."

With pal Notah Begay saying Woods won't be back for the U.S. Open, Tiger will have no chance to better his record at Pinehurst. Booth, perhaps yielding to the probability of a Woods-free tourney at Royal Liverpool, did offer a caveat to his boast about attendance.

"We don’t anticipate the same 230,000 this year," Booth said, "but we expect around 200,000."

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