Tiger pause receives support from golf world

Tiger Woods received support for his decision to take an indefinite break from golf from the players and officials who have ridden his fame to record prize mone

Updated: December 12, 2009 18:43 IST
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Orlando :Tiger Woods received support for his decision to take an indefinite break from golf from the players and officials who have ridden his fame to record prize money and rich TV profits.

Woods on Friday admitted to "infidelity" in a website statement, adding, "after much soul searching I've decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father and person."

A golf world that has been largely shaped over the past 12 years by the 14-ime major champion repaid a bit of the debt owed the 14-time major champion for luring huge fan interest and sponsorship money to the sport worldwide.

"It's great that he's going to put his family first and work things out," world number three Steve Stricker said.

"Golf will always be there. He wants to make sure his marriage is right and everything is good on the homefront.

"We'll sure miss him on tour until he gets things taken care of... Now we're not sure when he's coming back. But this sounds good. I hope everything works out for him."

The US PGA Tour released a statement backing Woods and his decision to step away from the game to deal with the ongoing personal saga that has become global gossip fodder.

"We fully support Tiger's decision to step away from competitive golf to focus on his family," the PGA Tour statement said.

"His priorities are where they need to be and we will continue to respect and honor his family's request for privacy. We look forward to Tiger's return to the PGA Tour when he determines the time is right for him," the PGA statement read.

Woods, the first athlete to earn one billion dollars from endorsements and prize money, has drawn extra attention and sponsor support to golf on his way to 14 major titles, four shy of the record total won by Jack Nicklaus.

But any lengthy absence by the world number one threatens to diminish viewer and sponsor support for tour events and even major tournaments.

"If he's out for an extended period of time it's going to have a tremendous effect on golf and sports in general," David Dusek, senior editor for Sports Illustrated's golf group, told CNN.

"TV ratings will be dramatically down. It will be tremendously damaging to the health of the sport and just to the general buzz.

US golf television ratings plunged by half when Woods was out with a knee injury for much of last year and early 2010.

The next three major tournaments - the Masters in April at Augusta National, the US Open in June at Pebble Beach and the British Open in July at St. Andrews, will all be played on courses upon which Woods has won a major crown.

Woods, whose estimated earnings for 2009 were 92 million dollars, won last month's Australian Masters before the accusations of multiple mistresses began and Woods' own admission of unspecified wrongs made him a global punch line.

Max Garske, the PGA of Australia's chief executive, supported Woods in a sign of the global impact of Woods's decision.

"We fully support what a delicate situation it is for Tiger and his family where clearly they need their privacy and time to rebuild their lives," Garske said.

Corporate sponsors of Woods have repeated their support in the wake of the latest twist in the two-week tale that destroyed Woods' squeaky-clean image.

"Tiger has been part of Nike for more than a decade," Nike said. "He is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of his era. We look forward to his return to golf. He and his family have Nike's full support."

Consulting firm Accenture removed an image of Woods from its web page.

US sports attorney David Cornwell said he thinks Woods can remind people why they were so attracted to him in the first place simply by playing golf at a high level when he returns.

"I think he would be if it has not damaged his golf, if he can be as phenomenal a player as he has been, people are going to give him a second chance," Cornwell told CNN.

"There's a good chance the slate will to a certain level be wiped cleaner. I think all will be forgiven by the public and consequently the sponsors will come back."

Dusek expects that when Woods returns, "it's going to be a circus like golf has never seen. We're talking something along the lines of a Super Bowl. Tiger Woods is a global brand. There's going to be this enormous build up. "If he were to come back now and perform at a high level, it would be one of the all-time great achievements... When he does come back, his family situation will be set and he will be ready to compete."

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