Tiger's wedded worries

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

It is doubtful Elin Nordegren, retired swimsuit model and nanny, ever aspired to the title "Most Powerful Person in Golf."

But now Nordegren, who no doubt will become better known as Mrs. Elin Woods, may just be wearing that crown.

After all, as a live-in the past couple of years, Elin's record in majors is abysmal. She has taken her man to No. 3 from No. 1 in the world. And now she has a long-term contract.

That's a big responsibility.

Married, single, or just foolin' around, Tiger Woods holds the key to the future earning power of his peers. Used to be, Woods didn't have many peers, but the boat is full to the gunwales these days.

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However, when Joe Schmoe and his wife, Edith, are channel-surfing on a Sunday afternoon, looking for a good golf slugfest, it's still Tiger -- not Phil, Ernie or Vijay -- they most want to see. And when they don't see him, they flee.

That doesn't apply to the true golf fans, who tune in to see the best players that week. But for a few years, Woods' broad appeal as an icon roped in a huge audience of tourists.

Now, when he's out of contention, which is often, ratings are down by 20% or more.

Back in 2000, when Woods won everything he looked at, he set the stage for a huge windfall for his golfing opponents.

In 2001, the PGA Tour signed a four-year TV contract with a six-network consortium, a contract that extended from 2003 until 2006 and was worth nearly twice that of the agreement that had expired.

Now, with Woods no longer lighting up the leaderboards and inflaming the galleries, TV ratings have faltered, just as work must begin on negotiations for a new TV deal.

You don't have to be an expert on Neilsen ratings to understand that unless Woods starts hitting it close and draining some putts in the clutch, a lot of the air will go out of the golf balloon.

So, whether they choose to accept it or not, it's in every pro golfer's best interest that Woods find his way out of his own personal wilderness.

Oh, and what a horrid wilderness it is. Wealthy enough to buy and sell Michael Jordan, talented enough to win eight majors by the age of 26 and charismatic enough to woo and wed the likes of his stunning new bride ... yes, it's a cruel fate.

But Tiger himself set the bar at an impossible level and now needs to find a way to reassert himself in a world where enemies who used to cower in his competitive presence have become emboldened.

There are many who don't believe the marriage angle will have any effect, one way or the other. Nick Faldo, for one, thinks that Woods needs to forget about his corporate empire and immerse himself in the game again.

"Tiger is an empire already, which is quite amazing," Faldo told reporters last week. "He has to have so much going on. He is so big that it's hard to focus just on playing.

"When things are going on behind the scenes and deals are being struck, it's hard not to get involved because obviously the numbers he is talking about are massive -- tens of millions of dollars sometimes and potentially hundreds of millions.

"And there's no doubt his game has changed. Years ago, he just stood up, took a practice swing and hit it. Now he's thinking about his swing. But we all change. This is all part of the big life curve, and it is up to Tiger to go with the flow and get his game back."

Woods played 20 tournaments in 2003 and probably will end 2004 having played 22 events.

"It's hard to play one week a month and suddenly try to play well," Retief Goosen said. "Vijay is in a great rhythm because he's thinking only of winning tournaments. Tiger's standing on the tee not sure what he's doing. I personally think he should play more.

"For him, it's not really about making money on the course anymore. He has a lot of things taking his mind away from the game."

At the end of the day, maybe it's not a wife that Tiger needs, but an affair.

We hear Butch Harmon is available.


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