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Tiger Woods: The Butterfly Effect

As the Tiger Woods Sex Scandal tries to answer the question, "Will Tiger reach 18 Majors or 18 Mistresses First?" the golf world has to contemplate exactly how hard will his self-induced sabbatical hurt the game.

While there is little doubt that Tiger -- and the rest of the PGA tour will take a hit in the pocketbook, there is one segment of business that is enjoying the ride.

Google and Yahoo, who host over 80% of all internet searches in the U.S. say they have both seen a significant spike in traffic from people following the Woods soap opera. Yahoo reports that searches for Woods' name are up more than 3,900% over the past month.

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said, "God bless Tiger..."[This] is better than Michael Jackson dying; it is kind of hard to put an ad next to a funeral,"

While the internet may be the financial winner in all of this, it is easy to sort out the losers.

Woods of course is the big loser personally, and he is in seclusion trying to piece back his personal and professional life. But for Tiger, the hits just keep on coming. Now there is a report linking Woods to a Canadian Doctor being investigated for for supplying performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.

Woods is already feeling the pinch among his sponsors. Gillette has stated that since Tiger was taking a "Timeout" from golf, they would take a break in using him in their advertisements.

So far Accenture is the only one of Tiger Woods' sponsors to completely drop him.

The Swiss watch manufacturer Tag Heuer, has said they stand by Woods, and of course Nike is also remaining steadfast in their support.

Network TV contracts are about up and negotiations are just around the corner. The PGA Tour has 11 tournaments whose sponsor contracts are set to expire after 2010. Three others, including the January event at Torrey Pines in San Diego are listed as "scheduled without sponsors."

Both sides have an idea as to what kind of effect Woods' absence can have -- they need only look to last year after the U.S. Open.

With Woods out after knee surgery, the PGA tour saw a 50% drop in TV ratings in 2008.

When Woods dropped out of the tour after the 2008 U.S. Open, tour TV ratings dropped out of sight. The average household rating/share for the 2007 events that Tiger played in was 3.3/8. The same tournaments played in 2008 without the injured Tiger dropped to a 1.7/4. Essentially with Tiger tour events averaged 4.5 million .viewers. Without him, they pulled in 2.4 million viewers.

Woods is also a draw with new media. When he won the 2008 U.S. Open, the PGA Tour website had 1.6 million unique visitors.

The rest of the PGA tour will be counting the days until Tiger's return. He has been the face of the sport for over a decade, and he has made many of them millionaires.

In 1996, when Woods was just a part-timer on the tour, Jumbo Ozaki was the tour's leading money winner with $1,944,000. Woods played in 13 events and won $818,484. There were 15 pros who won $1 million or more on the tour in 1996. Robert Gamez was 125th on the list, which assured him of his touring card for 1997. He earned $314,596.

Meet Kevin Streelman, golf unkown -- and millionaire.

Have you heard of Kevin Streelman? Neither have I, and I am the official Golf Prick of Barking Carnival. Streelman is a journeyman pro out of Duke. He finished 91st on the PGA 2008 money list, with $1,007,044. Since Tiger came on the scene the number of yearly millionaires on the PGA tour has increased six times over.

Woods himself only played in 17 events in 2008, yet won $10,508,153 -- over ten times what he won back in 1996.

How long will his leave of absence last? That is, literally, the $64,000,000 question.

The belief is that when he returns, if he is the Tiger of old, there will be no long-term hangover for both the golfer and the tour. But should he not return to his previous level of play, it would be the worst case scenario for the sport.