Tiger return great for ratings, but fans may disagree
While the return of troubled player Tiger Woods to the PGA Tour is manna from heaven for sponsors and television executives, an intriguing question mark hovers over his likely reception by the fans.
Woods is assured of a warm welcome at his first event back, the April 8-11 US Masters at genteel Augusta National, but beyond that he could spark a mixed reaction following his stunning fall from grace at the end of last year.
After becoming engulfed in a media frenzy following a bizarre early-morning car crash outside his Florida home on November 27, the American's squeaky-clean image was torn asunder by allegations of several extra-marital affairs.
In a carefully managed public appearance last month, he finally apologised to his family and fans for his repeated infidelities and said that he was undergoing therapy.
Although Woods was the most marketable player in the game and drives up television ratings by around 50 per cent when he competes, his image needs to be slowly rebuilt if he is to win back many of the fans he might have lost over the past four months.
Unquestionably, the greatest golfer of his generation and arguably the best of all time, Woods can expect to receive his fair share of biting retorts from the galleries, just as he has been lampooned by television chat-show hosts in recent months.
However, there is also a possibility that the 14-times major champion could attract new fans now that his human flaws have been so publicly exposed.
Previously he was put on a pedestal by many and viewed as a remarkable but almost blinkered player who never really took the galleries to heart.
"It's certainly a possibility," said British Open champion Stewart Cink, who joked Woods was made of nuts and bolts after being pummelled by his fellow American in the 2008 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship final.
"Now, maybe a lot of people think if you open him [Woods] up, you see a beating human heart. We all have our shortcomings. "I guess that's one reason why John Daly has been so popular. The fans identify with him and his trials and tribulations."
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