What Tiger Woods' 'indefinite break' from golf might mean

On Friday evening, a statement on Tiger Woods' website announced that the world's greatest golfer is going to take "an indefinite break from professional golf." Tiger begins the statement by expressing awareness of the "disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children."

Woods adds that "It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try." The questions now are: Will his family be willing to forgive him, how will his sponsors react and how might his hiatus affect the sport, especially if it turns into a permanent break?

While his children (2 years old and 10 months old) won't remember this fiasco, it could affect how they're raised (in one home or two). Woods admits that he needs to "focus [his] attention on being a better husband, father, and person."

Talk about your major understatements. If the laundry list of women coming to the tabloids saying that they were involved with Woods is legit, he may need to also focus his attention on seeking some help.

A Woods Frenzy on the Net

He also asks for the understanding from his "fans, the good people at [his] foundation, [his] business partners, the PGA Tour, and [his] fellow competitors." Understanding? Maybe. But we all know the media isn't going to give the Woods clan much privacy -- that's just the nature of the media beast today.

According to a Bloomberg report, "Tiger Woods" is now the top search term that's sending traffic to news sites. Pete Blackshaw from Nielsen Co. told Bloomberg that "There's an almost unquenchable appetite for more content.... Traffic is taking a significant jump." The article adds that Woods-related topics were among the top 20 fastest-growing searches on Google on every day except one during December.

Yahoo says Woods searches have increased nearly 40-fold in the past 30 days and that the percentage of blogs commenting on Woods has increased more than tenfold. This leap in Tiger-related search just proves that we can't get enough scandal in our lives. It also proves the immense reach and appeal of Tiger Woods.

A Plummeting Celebrity Endorser Ranking

His sponsors, however, have a different sort of interest. For instance, Tiger's picture is no longer on Accenture's home page, and links to some "Woods-related content" aren't working.

Sponsor AT&T now says, "We support Tiger's decision, and our thoughts will be with him and his family. We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship." As of today, Woods' ranking among celebrity endorsers has dropped to 24th from sixth before the reports of his extramarital affairs broke. Watch for this ranking to fall further after Friday's admission and his indefinite break from the sport.

What if Woods quit golf altogether? Stranger things have happened. If he did retire, what would it do to the sport? Would attendance at tournaments fall? Would advertising in golf diminish? Chances are the four major tournaments (the Masters, PGA Championship, the British Open and the U.S. Open) would be be fine. These tournaments brought in viewers and advertisers well before Woods came along, and will continue to do so.

But a Tiger retirement should scare the secondary tournaments. Remember that there was a new-found delight in golf when he first came on the scene. Will this dissipate if he leaves it?

For Woods himself, at least one thing is certain: All bets are off now that his indiscretions have devalued his strongest asset -- his image.

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