At the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament Sunday, the most famous face in golf was the man who wasn't there. Tiger Woods' absence was attributed to an auto accident.
Nor was there a single commercial featuring the golfer whose commercial endorsements are a large part of the estimated $130 million he earned this year.
His absence is hardly a mystery. The eruption of stories linking the most famous athlete in the world to a growing string of extra-marital affairs has made any public appearance - even in a commercial - awkward to say the least. Woods has pleaded for privacy to deal with what he has called "transgressions."
But the private conduct - or misconduct - of Tiger Woods has brought with it potentially devastating public consequences to the sport of golf he has come to dominate, consequences that could add up to hundreds of millions of dollars.
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"Tiger Woods is the face of golf. He dominates the sport as no athlete says since the 1920's and Babe Ruth," said Kurt Badenhausen, an editor at Forbes.
Badenhausen says numbers dramatically measure the impact. When an injury kept Woods out of the 2008 PGA Championship, ratings dropped 55 percent. When he came back this year, ratings for the Tour Championship jumped 83 percent. Counting PGA events and major tournaments, Woods' presence led to a 136 percent jump in ratings. Why? Because Woods is more than the man who may be the best golfer who ever lives.
"He transcends," Badenahusen said. "Young people, old people like him."
That's why Tiger Woods' troubles may be making sponsors gun-shy. They want their products linked to Tiger the champ, Tiger the great competitor, who won the U.S. Open on a broken leg-not the Tiger who is the punch line of a joke.
It's not that Woods himself is facing any financial worries. He's already earned a billion dollars or more, and companies like Nike, which has built a whole product line around him, and the video game maker EA are sanding by their long-term contracts.
"In the long term, tiger will be fine," said John Rowaday, an expert on sports marketing.
The problem is more immediate. The economy has drained corporate commitments to major tournaments, so golf badly needs as big and as engaged an audience as possible. If Tiger Woods is seriously diminished - on the fairways and TV screens - this non-contact sport will take a crushing body blow.