The U.S. Open golf tournament begins this morning in North Carolina, and Tiger Woods -- the One, the greatest of his generation, the alpha and omega -- remains sidelined while recovering from back surgery. He also missed the Masters, the first major tournament of the year, prompting The Atlantic to ponder golf's future sans Tiger and pronounce it "bleak."
Like any big-picture article that attempts to divine the future of an entire sport, the prudent reaction is that we'll see soon enough. Many of us older fans, for instance, have heard about the emergence of American soccer for four decades, and it's easy to take the bait amidst the excitement of the World Cup, which also begins today. You'll meet friends downtown at Hawk's, the Coopers Tavern or Brocach and have a great time with it for a month. Then the tournament will end, some nation that is not the United States having won, and most Americans will go back to ignoring soccer.
As for golf, sure, life after Woods will be a slog for a while. The PGA and its broadcast partners have been all in with him, and understandably so, since he blew up the Masters field by 12 strokes in 1997. Now, with his run of dominance likely finished for good, the PGA has no fallback plan. The tour does have an array of talented young players, as always, but no one has captured the imagination of casual viewers.
In the long term, though, I doubt the prognosis is bleak. The Tiger bubble is over, and the correction has begun. A decent corollary could be the NBA, which hitched its wagon to Michael Jordan in the '90s and then struggled for years to find a new identity after Chicago stopped winning championships. New stars came along and the league is fine now; the Los Angeles Clippers were just sold for $2 billion.
The preferred sport of those idle rich who rule our world? Golf.