Tiger Woods has fallen so far -- 79th in Monday's Official World Golf Ranking -- that he wasn't eligible for the WGC-Cadillac Championship. That reality made Woods' career mortality come more into focus despite not being in last week's field at Doral.
However, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem knows golf will be fine even if Woods continues a slide to irrelevance.
“The PGA Tour is going to be fine," Finchem said Sunday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. "But when you lose your No. 1 player, in a time when he’s still at an age where he can really play -- if he can get back to that level -- it’s not going to let you perform at the same level as you would with him."
The Tour has already faced long stretches without Woods, including for nine months after the 2008 U.S. Open, the first quarter of 2010, three months in 2011 and much of 2014. Players stepped up to fill that space, even if fans didn't flock to those new names. While Rory McIlroy is a solid No. 1, now with four major titles, the casual fan is still intrigued by Woods, even if he's a falling, not a shooting, star.
"He’s your No. 1 player. He’s the player that on balance fans want to watch play more than any other," Finchem said.
While Finchem believes Woods will continue to be the Tour's top draw for "a long time," Woods also only appears in a little more than one-third of the events.
Finchem saw this transition once before, with Jack Nicklaus.
"I remember how long it took for all of us, fans, media, to come to grips with Jack stepping away. It took years," Finchem said. "Nobody wanted to let Jack go and finally he started playing some on the Champions Tour."