The PGA Tour always has had impeccable timing when it comes to negotiating TV contracts.
Tiger Woods shattered records at the 1997 Masters, becoming the youngest winner (21) by the widest margin (12 shots) and giving golf its highest TV rating (14.1) in the cable era. The tour met with networks a month later and reached a four-year deal worth about $650-million, twice as much as the previous contract.
The summer after Woods completed his "Tiger Slam" by winning his fourth straight major at the '01 Masters, the tour negotiated the 2003-06 contract that was worth close to $900-million.
The next round of negotiations might be more sticky.
The tour is expected to start meeting with networks next summer, and Tigermania is at an all-time low. Woods has gone 10 majors without winning, matching the longest drought of his career.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem notes the tour has signed 10 title sponsors through 2010, the end of the next TV contract. But complicating matters is the PGA Tour probably will have to get in line when it comes to a new TV contract. The networks face a busy year in negotiating deals with the NFL and NASCAR.
"It's going to limit golf's flexibility," said Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports.
One area where there is little room for debate is the ratings, which indelibly are tied to Woods' performance.
Take this year's Masters. Phil Mickelson birdied five of his last seven holes, making an 18-foot birdie on the 18th to win by one shot over Ernie Els.
But the Sunday overnight rating of 7.3 was down about 20 percent from the previous year, when Mike Weir defeated Len Mattiace in a playoff. Woods didn't contend in either Masters.
OLYMPICS: Hamm still in form
Paul Hamm's first gymnastics routine on U.S. soil since Athens produced a familiar result. Hamm, the all-around Olympic gold medalist, was part of a victorious five-man dance routine called the "Men's Group Matrix" during the Rock 'n' Roll Competition in Uncasville, Conn. The exhibition, considered a post-Olympic celebration of the sport, featured music and dance choreography.
Hamm's victory in Athens has been scrutinized since it was discovered South Korea's Yang Tae-young should have been awarded more points for his routine based on the degree of difficulty. Yang finished third, 0.049 points behind Hamm, who became the first American man to win gymnastics' biggest prize.
STILL THE CHAMP?: The Hungarian hammer thrower who was stripped of his gold medal after refusing to take a follow-up drug test at the Athens Games said he still considers himself the champion and vowed to keep his medal. The IOC said Adrian Annus passed two drug tests - one before and one after his event Aug. 22. Though both samples came back clean, the analysis "showed evidence of belonging to two different athletes, indicating possible tampering," the IOC said.
COLLEGES: AD upholds firing of UGA cheerleading coach
Georgia athletic director Damon Evans upheld the dismissal of the school's cheerleading coach, who was fired last week after a Jewish cheerleader, Jaclyn Steele, accused her of discrimination. Coach Marilou Braswell was fired for "discourteous and disruptive behavior" when she told the cheerleading squad Aug. 7 about the discrimination allegations.
Braswell, a former UGA cheerleader who was in her 12th year as coach, had been on probation since November, when Steele first made her allegations. She and her attorneys plan to meet today to determine if they will appeal to the university's grievance coordinator or file a lawsuit.
FSU SOCCER: The women's team (2-0-0), which opened the season with wins against Pac-10 powers Arizona State and Southern California, jumped to a program-best No. 3 in the Soccer America and Soccer Buzz magazine polls. FSU plays at Miami, its ACC opener, and at Florida Atlantic on Friday and Sunday, respectively.