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‘The Most Impactful Player’ Returns

BETHESDA, MARYLAND | At 8:12 a.m. last Thursday, all was well again in the wide world of professional golf.
There was Tiger Woods on the 10th tee at Congressional Country Club, taking his first official swing in a PGA Tour event since the WGC-Cadillac Invitational at Doral on March 9. Now, almost 3½ months later, with a surgically repaired back, he was back, back, back himself, but hardly back to his old self.
The day before, at the very same hole, a 218-yard par-3 over water, he started off his 6:30 a.m. pro-am round by plunking a tee shot into the pond. The next day, with a five-deep crowd surrounding the tee box and lining the path up to the green, he hit a 5-iron into a back bunker, blasted to within 12 feet, then missed the putt.
To the hundreds following him, it hardly mattered. Nor did his opening-round score of 74 saved by birdies on two of his last three holes. Tiger Woods was back, at least until a Friday 75 led to a rare missed cut, only the 10th of his illustrious career.
Still, his mere playing presence in the Quicken Loans National, even briefly, was all that counted – to his legion of fans, his fellow players, network and Tour executives who know all too well what his presence means.
The Masters without him? Sorry Bubba, but so boring on the back nine Sunday, and a precipitous drop in the ratings.
The U.S. Open and no Tiger? Apologies to Martin Kaymer, but a Sunday snore, as well, and more remotes clicking elsewhere.
“He’s the most impactful player that’s been in the sport, and has been for a long time,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. “It gets people refocused on his career and his drive. Short-term benefits are that it sells more tickets, but that’s not really important. It’s just having him in the sport. He creates more interest.”


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