WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – If there’s one thing that Westchester County golf fans agree upon, it’s that Tiger Woods’ absence at this years Masters Tournament makes golf’s grandest event lose some of its luster.
Woods -- who has been inconsistent since returning from a self-imposed hiatus in 2010 – bowed out of the season’s first major after undergoing surgery on his balky back on March 31 to relieve a pinched nerve.
This marks the first Masters that Woods hasn’t been a participant in 20 years. Given his current rehab timeline, there is a distinct possibility that he will also miss the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June and the Open Championship in England the following month.
While perusing coverage of the tournament over lunch in New Rochelle on Friday, Phil Martin, 26, said that as a casual fan, he had no vested interest without Woods’ star appeal.
“I don’t really follow it during the golf season, but I’ll keep an eye out during the majors most of the time and hope it’s close,” he said. “I don’t know about this year. I guess there’s still Phil (Mickelson), but I think you’re going to lose a lot of people like me who are looking for Tiger.”
Defending Masters champion Adam Scott – who was listed among the favorites to repeat this year – stole the show during the opening round, with a steady performance that landed him in second place, one stroke behind leader Bill Haas, who rode six birdies to the top.
“I consider myself a golf fan, and I love to play casually, but I don’t think they’re going to get the audience without Tiger there,” White Plains resident Mary Phelps said in New Rochelle. “Maybe someone will come out of no where and be the next legend.”
While veteran golfers like Haas, Fred Couples and Bubba Watson have started the Masters strong, Mount Vernon native Bill Kelleher, 66, a self-titled “professionally amateur golfer until (his) shoulder surgery,” said he thought it could be an important tournament for golf if a new star were to emerge in the wake of Woods’ absence.
“There’s young talent out there, with Rory (McIlroy), Scott and even someone like (Rickie) Fowler,” he said. “None of them are going to be Tiger, but this is a chance for them to make a name for themselves if they step up and have the tournament of their lives.”