You know the sound a golf gallery makes when a five-foot birdie putt lips out?
That's the groan that also accompanied the news that a rehabbing
Without Woods, there's no "Will he pass Jack Nicklaus" talk. There's less buzz. Fewer casual fans will tune in.
CBS' Jim Nantz, during an appearance on "The Dan Patrick Show," called Woods' absence "the story that dwarfs all others."
But as Nantz pointed out, who's to say that Woods would have contended anyway? He has completed only 10 rounds in
"We will miss Tiger for sure," Nantz said, "but that tournament is never about one player. I can't wait to see what the next script is to be written."
"Golf is always better when Tiger Woods is in the conversation," McIlroy said before teeing it up at the
It has been an odd season on the PGA Tour, as the four winners on the Florida swing (Russell Henley,
Reed, at 23, declared himself one of the top five players in the world on the way to his third tour victory in seven months. (The stubborn world golf rankings, which factor in two years of results, have him 22nd. That's up from 584th at the end of 2012.)
Defending Masters champion
There was concern about Mickelson when he withdrew during the third round of the Texas Open after pulling an oblique muscle. But Thursday provided some relief to his fans.
After working on his short game at Augusta National earlier in the week, he shot a bogey-free 68 at the Houston Open and said his side "feels sore like I was working out, as opposed to kind of a painful experience." He followed up with rounds of 70 and 72.
"He has been a mess lately and he's hurt a little bit,"
Every player wants to peak next weekend because regardless of whether Woods is present, there's nothing like the Masters.
"[It] always has been the highest-rated and most anticipated golf tournament of the year," CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said. "That was true before Tiger played in it. It's true when Tiger [plays] in it and it will be true when Tiger is no longer playing."
ESPN analyst Paul Azinger called the absence of the world's No. 1 player "a huge disappointment" for the media.
"But it's still the Masters and it's still this epic event," he said. "The shock, disappointment and the reason he's not here, I think it will present a little bit of a challenge possibly at first, but once that tournament gets going, the Masters carries its own weight."
Arnold Palmer, whose life will be examined in a three-part documentary debuting April 13 on the Golf Channel, put it this way: "I was playing with Lloyd Mangrum, one of the great players in our time, and one day we were walking down the fairway. He said: 'Arnie, I've won the national open, fought in wars and [won] awards for all kinds of military stuff. I'd give it all up if I could have just one Masters.'"