Tiger Woods: Off the PGA Tour but on everyone’s mind

Heard any good jokes lately?

“It has been reported that a woman is now trying to sell a sex tape she made with Tiger Woods. The sex tape will be available soon at adult bookstores in the Tiger Woods section.”

-- Conan O’Brien

“There is a new book out about the life of Warren Beatty. . . . It says Warren has slept with 12,000 women. . . . Barring injuries, Tiger may have a shot at that record.”

-- David Letterman

PGA Tour preview: An article looking at the upcoming professional golf tour in Thursday’s Sports section said that AT&T, Accenture and Tag Heuer had dumped sponsorship deals with Tiger Woods in the wake of controversy. Tag Heuer still has its relationship with Woods but has scaled back his appearances in advertisements. —

It’s been an unusual off-season for golf. The sport has gone from the cover of Golf World to the front of US Weekly. From ESPN to TMZ. From the back page of the New York Post (occasionally) to the front (20 consecutive days). Some guy named Obama finally bumped him off.

The nation’s president and Woods, incidentally, were paired together on the January cover of Golf Digest. Obama’s handlers probably would like to see the pages of that issue recycled into napkins.

Few bigwigs still want to be associated with Woods. AT&T, Accenture and Tag Heuer dumped him as if he were a camera within arm’s length of caddie Steve Williams.

Jesper Parnevik, who introduced Woods to his future wife, Elin, teed off on the world’s No. 1, saying he has “lost all respect for him, primarily as a man and a father.”

Other Tour pros have lent support or attempted to look on the bright side.

“This is an opportunity for some great new stories to be born,” Kevin Streelman said.

Still, Woods is on everyone’s mind. Except, seemingly, Tim Finchem’s. The PGA Tour commissioner had this exchange Tuesday with a reporter at the SBS Championship, which begins today at Kapalua, Hawaii.

Question. Have you talked to Tiger or attempted to talk to him?

Finchem: Have I talked to who?

You know, the guy the late-night talk shows love.

A look at 10 story lines as we head into the 2010 PGA season:

1. Tiger the golfer: Woods announced in December that he would take an indefinite leave, and no one has a clue when he will return. The smart money is on the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which takes place near Woods’ Orlando, Fla.-area home two weeks before the Masters. But that’s a guess.

Golfweek columnist Jeff Rude reported that “multiple” players say Woods will not play in 2010, and others believe he will not return in time for the Masters.

2. Tiger the TV star: The Tiger Effect on TV is pretty simple, according to the Nielsen Co. About twice as many people watch when he plays. That fact surely has network officials praying for more than world peace.

3. And now, a word from our sponsors: With as many as 10 title sponsorships up for renewal, this is an enormous year for the Tour. When Finchem declared last month he doesn’t “see corporate America backing away from golf over Tiger’s issues,” you wondered if that was 50% hope, 50% reality. One good sign: BMW inked a two-year extension as title sponsor of its Chicago-area FedEx Cup event.

4. Groove is in the heart: A new regulation will have players shelving their U-style grooved clubs for those that impart less spin on the ball. The expected result: fewer birdies, more bump-and-run shots and a premium on driving accuracy. A bit retro, if you will.

5. Phil-ing a role: Phil Mickelson is not only the best player on a Tiger-free tour. He’s the biggest attraction. By far. Mickelson’s emotional U.S. Open bid fell two shots short (of a playoff), but Lefty’s putting work with Dave Stockton helped him triumph at the Tour Championship.

6. Major venues: Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Whistling Straits will give the season’s final three majors a big-game feel.

7. “Silver” winners a year later: Kenny Perry, Mickelson, Tom Watson and Woods almost won majors last year. Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E. Yang did. What will they do for an encore? C’mon, pretend to care.

8. The Ryder Cup: After slamming the Euros in Louisville in 2008, the Yankees head to Celtic Manor Resort in Wales to defend their Cup from Oct. 1-3. The captains: Corey Pavin and Colin Montgomerie, who recently told the Irish Times of Woods: “He will come back, but whether he will retain that mystique as an iconic player, I’m not sure.”

9. Young guns: Will appealing twentysomething stars such as Anthony Kim, Sean O’Hair, Camilo Villegas, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia (turns 30 on Saturday) break through and win a major? Please?

10. Now on the first tee ... Barry Bonds: The Tour suspended the obscure and 170-pound Doug Barron in November for violating its performance-enhancing drug policy. Joke, if you must, about his taking the wrong ones.

A serious drug scandal would hurt this game, especially if Woods’ name continues to be linked to Canadian physician Anthony Galea, who reportedly aided Woods’ comeback from knee surgery and is facing charges in Toronto related to importing and exporting an unapproved drug.