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It's Just Not the Same Without Tiger

The girls from Déjà Vu missed him, and were moved enough to go to great extremes to tell him so. That’s Déjà Vu, the strip club in the Midway District of town, not déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra often is quoted as saying. The ladies wanted Mr. Eldrick Woods, a.k.a. Tiger.
   They weren’t alone. So did everyone at the tournament, which used to be the Buick Invitational but now, in a quick financial rescue, if at bargain rates, is the Farmers Insurance Open.
    Everyone, perhaps, except the other players he used to beat, and in truth they also missed him.
    “You always want your best guy,’’ said Rocco Mediate, “whatever the sport. It makes the sport what it is.’’
     What Tiger, in his absence, has made golf of late is a sport groping for the glory and television ratings when he was famous for wearing a red shirt instead of, as now, wearing a red face.
   The Farmers was the third full-field tournament of the year, the one at Torrey Pines, the one with the hang gliders swooping and the pelicans gliding and the Pacific Ocean glistening.
   The one Tiger has won six times (yes, he also took the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey, but that’s another issue). The one where traditionally Tiger started his season. But the one Tiger avoided this year like he might an Accenture commercial.
    Not that he had an option, if we are to believe what loosely might be described as news reports. Tiger’s apparently still in that sex addiction rehab clinic in Mississippi.
    When in better days, not including 2009 when Woods still was recovering from knee surgery, he would be at Torrey and more often than not eventually in the winner’s circle.
    But in 2010, it hardly was out of sight, out of mind. Especially for the ladies from the strip joint, or was it their manager, Dakota Kelley, who came up with the idea of having a plane fly above Torrey Pines in the first round tailing the banner reading “WE MISS YOU TIGER! DÉJÀ VU SHOWGIRLS.”
     A front-page story in the San Diego Union Tribune forecast the Farmers would lose $200,000 because of reduced ticket and corporate marquee sales. It also lost the excitement Tiger has brought.
    Or as Chris Tidland, a PGA Tour player who used to face Woods back in the late 1980s when they were both amateurs in Southern California, observed,  “It’s different. The traffic is not as bad. The crowds, there’s not quite as much buzz right now.’’
   Buzz. That’s what Tiger creates. He’s creating it even now, if in a manner no one would have predicted a few months back. He’s the star of the gossip web sites and New York Post and Daily News. They say instead of a Tiger he’s a “Cheetah,’’ which is not to be confused with what Chris McCarron called Phil Mickelson. That was “Cheater.’’
    If fans at the Farmers felt cheated because the world’s No. 1 player wasn’t in attendance, it was hard to tell. Other than the banner from the ladies of Déjà Vu.
     Mediate made this point. “Any time he’s not in the field, it’s obvious that’s not the best field we have.’’
     Mickelson, the San Diego native, has been assigned the task of carrying the load, of becoming the pro-tem Tiger, as it were. The Farmers also was his season opener, and he knew exactly how to begin. By talking about Tiger. As practically everyone did.
  “It’s important for him to come back and be part of the sport,’’ said Mickelson. “The game of golf needs him.’’
   San Diego needed him. Woods would show up at Torrey, and then show up with the trophy. He won  in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
   “There is definitely less crowd,’’ said Ryuji Imada of the atmosphere, “maybe less attention from the media. But maybe that’s from Tiger not being here.
   “Tiger always plays here. When Tiger is here there’s a lot more electricity in the crowd, in the field, everywhere. More security, more media people, more people to watch him. When he’s not around, it’s easy to tell he’s not here.’’
    Which is a major problem for golf. Woods invariably skipped some tournaments, but those in which he competed it was as if the circus had hit town. And San Diego was, except for last year when Woods still was recovering from the knee surgery, one of those in which he always competed.
   “He’s one of the few athletes,’’ said Hunter Mahan, “that’s kind of changed the game forever. It’s sad he wasn’t here. It is an opportunity for some of us to go out there and make some noise.’’
     But nothing like the noise Tiger makes. Or the noise the fans make for Tiger.
     It’s going to be the same at every tournament until Tiger reappears. Well, not quite the same. There won’t be banners from strip clubs like the one from the girls at the Déjà Vu. They missed Tiger and they told us as much. Thanks, ladies.


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