When Woods Goes Missing, So Does the Audience

As Tiger Woods’s major sponsors plot their own courses in the enlarging wake of multiple accusations of Woods’s marital infidelities, the PGA Tour and its players must also deal with the prospect of yet another protracted absence by its biggest rainmaker.

“We need him out here because of sponsorships and just the awareness in our tour in general,” Steve Stricker told PGATour.com.

Stricker, the No. 3-ranked golfer in the world, was describing what came to be known as the Tiger Effect from the first day Woods joined the tour in 1996 — no Woods, no ratings.

Sponsors have reacted quickly after Woods announced Friday that he would take an “indefinite break” from the PGA Tour to work on his marriage. The global consulting giant Accenture ended its endorsement contract with Woods on Sunday, a day after Gillette announced it would reduce his presence in its advertising.

His presence on the tour is in question at least for the start of the 2010 season, which creates different concerns for the PGA Tour and golf in general. Most of his fellow competitors are prefacing or punctuating their remarks with expressions of concern for Woods’s well-being, but all are aware of the effect he has on everything from the number of people who attend tournaments to the number of zeroes on the checks they deposit if they manage to beat him.