KAPALUA, Hawaii - The prospect of Tiger Woods returning to form reminiscent of his dominant days is something that intrigues Tim Finchem as the PGA Tour embarks on the 2012 season, but the tour's commissioner isn't convinced that Woods returning to the victory circle for the first time since 2009 and resuming his quest to break Jack Nicklaus' record is necessary for golf's future growth.
"The PGA Tour grew when Jack Nicklaus was winning. It grew when he stopped winning and it's grown with Tiger winning. It doesn't matter to us," Finchem said Sunday at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort. "We can grow with one player dominant or we can work with more wide-open competition. The fans like it and are interested in it both ways."
Finchem, on hand for the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, was asked about Woods' potential impact on the game's popularity and television ratings in 2012 after showing signs of getting his game untracked late last year at the Presidents Cup and at his own Chevron World Challenge, which he won with birdies on the final two holes at Sherwood CC in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
"From 1996 until two years ago the one question I got everyday was that, 'Can you tell me how great his impact is on the PGA Tour?' Now we've gone through a little bit of a respite on that and we're getting back into it," Finchem said. "The overriding thing about Tiger is that because he transcends the sport and he's as big a personality as he is a golfer, generally, that he creates interest in the sport. He creates more focus. That's good stuff. The better he plays the more that will be. I just hope that if he gets back on a tear, that television and media will continue to focus on the great play of other guys and not get overwhelmed by it. But if he goes out and wins six tournaments this year, that's probably going to happen.
"I just want to see him play well because he's fantastic," Finchem added. "He's been great for the game. To have him in a few years maybe getting close to Jack's record and maybe Sam Snead's record - I always tell Tiger forget Jack's record, go after Sam Snead's record; it's probably harder for him to get - that would be great for the game."
-- Dave Shedloski