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A golf season without Tiger Woods would be bad for everybody, especially Tiger

Tiger Woods
Fred Vuich/SI
Tiger Woods has not indicated when he might return to the PGA Tour.

Don't go Tiger, not again.

Your announcement that you're taking an indefinite leave from golf is understandable. What you've guarded most of your life — your privacy — was taken from you, your personal text messages and e-mails splashed across newsprint and blogs. You're a very proud man who became a sideshow, a punch line. At the center of it all is your devastated wife and your two adorable children, too young to understand any of it.

And it's all your fault. No more veiled shots at an intrusive media, or "it's none of your business" surliness. You simply said, "I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try."

Who would begrudge you that? People are a forgiving lot, it's one of the great things about them. I don't know if your wife will forgive you, but if you're sincere and contrite your fans will come back, your endorsements will come back, and — most important to you — the respect everyone had for you will come back.

Still, "indefinite" sounds like a long time. We must be near the end of the mistress revelations. (We must be, right T-Dub?) A couple of months away from the world to work out your problems and rebuild your family makes sense, but the Mr. Mom routine is going to get old fast. You're a golfer. It's what you do. People who have been through a rough patch in their lives know the solace to be found in work. And remember last year, recovering from knee surgery, how much you burned to play again? I mean, you won the U.S. Open on a broken leg! That drive to compete and win is not going away, and I can't imagine you'll be much fun planting tomatoes on a Sunday with the family while Phil Mickelson puts on a green jacket.

Plus you can't escape who you are. Even if you leave the game forever, you're still going to be one of the world's most famous athletes. You can't have a normal life. People are still going to follow you, ask for your autograph and take your picture. I know you hate that, but it's never going to change. Take your yacht to the most remote port in Tasmania, and a well-thumbed copy of US Weekly will be on the bar.

OK, you're right. We golf fans are selfish. We want you back for us. There's just a different buzz when you're at a tournament. Look at the TV ratings. When you're winning, people actually become golf fans. You think someone becomes a football fan only when Peyton Manning is on TV? No way. It's you. Your pal John Daly said it best, "I hope we get him back soon. They always say there is no one bigger in golf than the game itself. But Tiger is."

The 2010 season is shaping up to be one of the greatest in memory. Your wannabe rival Phil is playing well, and the majors are going to be played at the sites of some of your greatest triumphs like Pebble Beach and St. Andrews. But if you're not there, it will be stale beer, another year with an asterisk. Waiting for your return will be worse than waiting for new episodes of Lost. Tiger, the truth is that deep down, in those places we don't talk about at parties, we want you on that course. We need you on that course. Get it fixed and come back soon.

Maybe in April?

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