Miami, March 9, 2015 (AFP) -PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says Tiger Woods' legacy is on solid ground and the sport will continue to prosper even after the 14-time major winner eventually steps away for good.
Finchem said he doesn't know when Woods will play next but he compared Woods' latest hiatus to Michael Jordan leaving the NBA to try his luck at professional baseball.
"The PGA TOUR is going to be fine," Finchem said Sunday at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championships.
"How concerned are we about him stepping away? You know, it's the same thing we had in 2012.
"We had it for a period of time in 2009 and 2010. It's good news and bad news.
"I mean, it's more bad news than good news because it's like Michael Jordan stepping away to play baseball that year. He's your No. 1 player. He's the player that on balance fans want to watch play more than any other...
"But when you lose your No. 1 player, in a time when he's still in an age where he can really play if he can get back to that level; it's not going to let you perform at the same level as you would with him."
Woods announced on February 11 he would not return to competition until his game shows improvement.
Woods, 39, struggled to a career-worst round of 82 and last-place finish at the Phoenix Open and a mid-round withdrawal at Torrey Pines with a bad back.
Woods missed the WGC event in Doral, the first WGC he has failed to qualify for since the 2011 HSBC Champions.
The only event between now and next month's Masters that Woods has regularly played is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
"So sooner or later, it's always going to happen. I remember how long it took for all of us, fans, media, to come to grips with Jack (Nicklaus) stepping away. It took years. Nobody wanted to let Jack go," he said.
Finchem said Woods has raised golf's profile and attracted a generation of new fans.
"During his period ... the Tour has grown," Finchem said. "It's gotten a bigger fan base.
"He's brought a lot of people to the game. That's a contribution that he will have made whether he stops playing now or whether he stops playing in 15 years."
Woods is a four-time winner of the Masters, the year's first major set for April 9-12 at Augusta National. He has never won the green jacket without first winning a tournament earlier in the same season.