Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tiger Woods is Finally Back

A deafening roar returns Wednesday to the tranquil world of professional golf — and for the sport, it arrives not a moment too soon.

Tiger Woods, the world's No. 1 golfer and a megawatt global star whose participation in a tournament can mean millions more TV viewersand incalculable buzz for the sport, returns to competitive golf for the first time since his epic victory in the U.S. Open last June. (Match vs. Brendan Jones starts at 2:02 p.m. ET, Golf Channel)

When he tees off in the Accenture Match Play Championship here, just north of Tucson, Woods will end an eight-month break that followed reconstructive surgery on his left knee — the longest interruption in his 13-year career.

Woods' layoff felt even longer for the PGA Tour, the organization that operates the main professional tournaments in the USA.

Television ratings, ticket sales, media coverage and general interest in golf have declined significantly since Woods was forced to miss the second half of last season and the first 20% of 2009. The Tour remains on solid financial footing, but the worldwide recession is raising doubts about crucial sponsorship agreements for about 20 tournaments whose deals are set to expire in 2010 — including 10 from the battered automobile and financial services industries.

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