Golf Gazette: What does Tiger really mean to golf?

Does the game of golf really need Tiger Woods?

One thing is certain. You can bet your sweet bippy the television networks and sponsors want Woods around.

The Golf Gods apparently have caught up with Woods and have shown us that, arguably, the best golfer ever can flub easy chip shots just like the rest of us. Woods’ once stellar, almost flawless, short game has recently been painful to watch.

Woods has not won a major golf tournament since 2008. His quest to catch Jack Nicklaus’ major win record of 18 appears to be fading like the sun over Augusta National on an early April evening.

When Woods was at the top of his game he was magical. During those years it seemed as if the rest of the field conceded first place to Woods and played for the runner-up spot.

Woods’ recent woes have been due in large part to physical issues. His 39-year-old body has endured four knee operations and back surgery. As golfers, we know a golf swing is not the most natural of athletic movements and repeating it over and over eventually takes its toll. One can only wonder just how many times Woods has swung a golf club.

Having covered a number of tournaments where I had close access to Woods, I found him, most of the time, to be patient and polite. He has, however, taken heat for being aloof, cold and not terribly fan-friendly. But shouldn’t we cut the guy a break? Everything he has done since appearing on the “Mike Douglas Show” as a 2-year old has been under the microscope.

Woods’ marital indiscretions were despicable and inexcusable. And seeing him more often than not brushing by young fans seeking his autograph (when Phil Mickelson always hangs around after finishing his day on the course, smiling and giving his John Hancock to everyone in the crowd) makes you wonder whether you want to be a Tiger Woods fan.

Yes, Woods is a skillionaire and lives a very luxurious lifestyle. Yet, many may not know that he gives a lot of his time and money to various charities such as the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Through his foundation, he supports families of military personnel along with other needy causes.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not you have to admit, he does create an awful lot of excitement. Let’s take it to the streets and find out what others think about Woods.

Father Peter Garry of Baiting Hollow: “Since Tiger’s fall, new players have surfaced and don’t fear him as much as they once did. Since I play golf left-handed, my hero has been Phil Mickelson, but unfortunately he seems to be slipping also.”

Donna Kerrigan of Aquebogue: “Tiger Woods, in my opinion, is good for the game of golf. When he is at the top of his game he is amazing to watch. But it’s also fun seeing others beat Tiger in a close match. My husband, Rit, taped a recent golf tournament and when Tiger withdrew he stopped watching it.”

John Ross of Southold: “My son, Sanford, lives in Arizona and recently went to a tournament in Scottsdale. He said not having Tiger around for the weekend made it possible for him to follow the leaders up close on the final day. If Tiger was there that would not have been possible. It seems that Tiger is fading from the picture, but there are others like Rory McIlroy ready to take up the slack. But still, Woods has done things with a golf club that others cannot do.”

19TH HOLE It was a beautiful spring day. Tom was on the first tee about to hit his drive when a woman in a wedding dress comes running up to him, slaps him in the face, and runs away. Tom turns to his buddy and says calmly: “I don’t know what her problem is.

I distinctly told her only if it rained.”