Tiger no longer the be all, end all

Golfer Tiger Woods arrives at the 2011 Tiger Jam at Mandalay Bay Events Center at Mandalay Bay...

Golfer Tiger Woods arrives at the 2011 Tiger Jam at Mandalay Bay Events Center at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 30, 2011. (Judy Eddy/WENN.COM)

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:50 PM ET

There was a time, not so long ago, when any kind of injury to Tiger Woods would have had PGA Tour officials, TV types and fans wringing their hands so tightly there was the ever-present danger of heads popping.

You may recall the anxiety that followed the announcement Woods would need surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament and double stress fracture after his playoff against Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open, his last major championship.

Last week, he announced a medial collateral sprain in his left knee and an Achilles tendon sprain will put him out of action for a couple of weeks, and possibly force him to miss the Players Championship.

Nobody wants the game's top star out of action, but the knuckles aren't as white because of this announcement as they were back in 2008. Of course, his most recent problem is minor in nature, but it also seems golf is finally letting go of its dependence on Tiger to keep it in the mainstream of pro sports.

The good news for golf is it really has nothing to do with Woods' past indiscretions that changed his life and his attitude and has everything to do with young, emerging stars who will challenge Tiger if and when he does get back to the level we expect of him.

That's not to say there isn't concern for Woods' health and its ramifications on his future, but these days we're just as likely to be talking about Lee Westwood leap-frogging Martin Kaymer to earn No. 1 in the world rankings or how Luke Donald missed a glorious opportunity to attain that status at The Heritage.

We even indulge in such silly topics as what's wrong when a 21-year-old such as Rory McIlroy plays inconsistently as if that didn't go with the territory for a rising star.

The point is that shooting the breeze about golf isn't all about Tiger anymore. And the Masters, where McIlroy led for three rounds, was a turning point in that evolution.

Not only did the Masters jack up the intensity of the spotlight on young guys such as McIlroy, eventual champion Charl Schwartzl, 26, or runner-up Jason Day, 23, but it also put an exclamation mark on the game's global presence with just three Americans in the top 10 at Augusta.

Even last year as Wood's waded through his post-scandal mess, most eyes were on him while international players such as Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Kaymer won majors and young stars such as Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson emerged.

Woods provided us with an incredible era and to say it's over does not suggest he won't win majors again. It only means we've finally come to the realization that parity isn't such a bad thing in golf.

THE SHORT GAME: Happy birthday to Mr. Canadian Open, Dick Grimm, who turned 88 on Friday "¦ McIlroy turns 22 on Wednesday. That should get the doomsayers blabbing if he happens to falter again "¦ If RBC does take out a title sponsorship at The Heritage, as a persistent rumour says, there could be a positive spinoff effect for the RBC Canadian Open and its current date right behind the British Open. The question then becomes which date do you move the Canadian Open to during a busy summer schedule that is any better than what the national championship has now? "¦ Graham DeLaet is back hitting balls and expects to make his comeback sometime this month after finishing 100th on the PGA Tour money list. The native of Weyburn, Sask., had surgery in early January for a bulging disc in his back that was also causing pain down his legs "¦ Oshawa's Derek Gillespie reporting that he expects a full recovery from five broken ribs and a broken leg in a recent car accident. Gillespie played nine events last year on the Canadian Tour.


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