|By George Jones, Renaissance College|
When you think of golf, the first thing that comes to mind is the sport's No 1, Tiger Woods. He is virtually the face of the sport.
He has had hurdles in his career, from his father dying to suffering from a knee injury which ended one campaign. None of that stopped him playing until claims that he was having an affair began to appear last November.
All it took was a car crash to blow the matter wide open, with numerous women later claiming to have had relationships with Woods. The media has paid a lot of attention to the matter. Woods is currently on a "break" from golf to mend his relationship with his wife and family.
Woods is now in therapy and has since admitted to his infidelity publicly, apologising earlier this month for the damage he had caused.
He has said that he plans to return to the game, but gave no details - so the sport which he symbolises no longer has him.
Golf could manage itself without Woods - he is not the only good golfer around. There is the potential for young blood to succeed in his footsteps and even surpass him.
New blood in the PGA could also help to rebuild the image of the sport tarnished by the acts Woods committed. Image is a particularly important thing considering that many of his sponsors and partners dropped him for what he did. The sport could become far more competitive with new players, and more exciting to watch.
That said, you just cannot replace the No 1 or just conjure up a sportsman of his stature. He has won 71 PGA championships, a whisper behind former greats such as Jack Nicklaus (73) and Sam Snead (82). He has won the PGA Tour Player of the Year award 10 times.
He is also one of the highest-earning athletes of all time, with his endorsement deals and tournament prize money giving him US$110 million in 2008 alone.
Ignoring for a moment Woods' misdeeds, he has contributed greatly to the sport economically, physically and socially. He has a vast following and is one reason why children play golf - they aspire to be him one day.
Sure, others may surpass him in future, but golf would be severely crippled in the short term if he were not to return. Golf needs a Tiger, even if it's one with personal problems.
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