Tiger Woods not No. 1 tour issue, Ames says
Keeping the money people happy is the priority as PGA golfers tee off in 2010, according to the 45-year-old Canadian player, reports Gord Holder.

Stephen Ames admits he has no idea when Tiger Woods will return to tournament golf, but the veteran pro from Calgary says the extended absence of the world’s No. 1-ranked player has little to do with the PGA Tour’s future.

Sure, Ames said Wednesday on the eve of the first event of 2010, commissioner Tim Finchem has his hands full, but those issues are connected to the economic recession and its impact on corporate sponsorships that are the tour’s lifeblood.

“A lot of it is ‘service,’ which is a big word right now in the industry that we are in, or any industry,” Ames said. “You have to keep the partners happy and (keep) the money people happy.”

The 45-year-old Ames, who qualified for the winners-only SBS Championship by winning the last event of 2009, did his part Wednesday by spending five hours playing and chatting with amateurs Tom Smith, Jack Stanfield, David Manougian and Rob Neal.

They are, respectively, executives with World Sport Group in Hong Kong, Fox Sports Houston, Comcast Pacific Northwest and the Tournament Golf Foundation of Phoenix and Portland.

Woods is by several measures the tour’s most popular player — television ratings dove when he was sidelined for eight months in 2008 and 2009 because of injury — and there are no guesses on when he will end a self-imposed exile while he deals with family matters in the wake of his admitted infidelities.