Tiger's Injury Leaves Questions About Return

There's still no word on when Tiger Woods will have surgery on his ailing left knee. Woods announced Wednesday that he's taking off the rest of this golf season to recover. It's all the more reason to savor his final performance of 2008 — that dramatic, sudden-death playoff win against Rocco Mediate at the U.S. Open on Monday.

Many people did savor the moment — it was the closest thing to a communal sports experience this country's had in a long time.

They paused at the New York Stock Exchange. CNBC reported that trading dipped almost 10 percent Monday during the playoff.

From coast to coast, people gathered in workplaces, bars and restaurants. And they watched in record numbers: ESPN televised the first part of the playoff, and the network said it was the most-watched golf telecast in the history of cable TV; golf Web sites reported record traffic.

"What's interesting about it is ... this was a golfer. This was a genre of sports that we don't normally think of as having this huge undifferentiated mass audience," says Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson, who teaches about television and culture.

"In an odd sort of way, the way people gathered around the TV set at work and at home and everywhere else to watch Tiger Woods, was not that unlike the way they gathered around the TV set in July of 1969 to watch a human being land on the moon," he says. "The idea that we wanted to be kind of witnesses to this event."

Performing astounding feats on a golf course may not exactly be one giant leap for mankind. But as he recovers from his injuries, fans surely will miss Woods. And the business of golf will miss what's called the Tiger Effect.

"When he plays in tournaments, they sell more tickets," says Charlie Kammerer, publisher of Golf Magazine and the Web site Golf.com. "Ratings and TV go up ... sometimes two-fold or three-fold.

"If you look at the five spikes we had in the first four months, all of them were related to Tiger."

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