Tiger Woods was must-see TV at the U.S. Open, making birdie on the final hole to force a playoff, another clutch birdie the next day to extend the playoff and winning his 14th major on what amounted to one good leg.
Halfway across the country, ticket sales were brisk in St. Louis those two days.
Woods is the defending champion in the BMW Championship, a PGA Tour playoff event in September that will be held at Bellerive. Fans in St. Louis haven't seen him in person since a practice round for a World Golf Championship on Sept. 11, 2001. The tournament was canceled the next day.
"Everything was going great _ until yesterday," tournament director Jon Kaczkowski said Thursday. "If you're a golf fan in St. Louis, you've got to feel snakebit."
That goes for everyone else in a golf industry that will have to do without its biggest star the rest of the year. Woods said Wednesday he would miss the remainder of the season to have reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
Television networks no longer can count on higher ratings driven by the world's No. 1 player. Woods had planned to compete nine more times this year, and organizers must try to put a positive spin on any tournament that no longer has him as a headliner. His departure even affects bookmakers, who are making refunds on wagers that Woods will win two majors this year.
Maybe the biggest reminder that Woods is done for the year is that British-based William Hill lists Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia as the betting favorites for the British Open at 12-to-1.
A week ago, Woods was listed at 5-to-2.
"When he plays, everyone in golf benefits," Kaczkowski said.
This is not the first time Woods has been on the disabled list. He missed two months in 2006 when his father died, and two months this year when he had surgery on his left knee to clean out cartilage.
His absence is most strongly felt in St. Louis, a golf-hungry town that again had dessert snatched away.
"We've had a few callers to our office that have asked for a refund, which is to be expected," Kaczkowski said. "I'm surprised we haven't had more. They're deflated a little bit. They understand we have a great field and a great tournament. But they thought they would have a chance to see the greatest player maybe ever in their town."
The tournament typically is played in Chicago, but moved to St. Louis for this year in an experimental rotation. Kaczkowski said ticket sales are still double what they had been at Cog Hill, and corporate sales also doubled.
Even so, with weekly tickets still available, he estimated Woods' absence will cost the tournament $500,000.
"It's hard to say how much this is costing us in ticket sales, but the tickets feed into concessions and merchandise," he said.
A year ago, Woods won the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta to capture the first FedEx Cup. Ticket sales already were 20 percent ahead of last year, but daily tickets won't go on sale until August.
"That's a big time, the last eight weeks leading up to the tournament," said Todd Rhinehart, the tournament director. "From our perspective, this has not impacted us yet. But it will be interesting to see how we do in August and September."
The Tour Championship already has sold about 17,000 tickets, meaning 8,000 will be available in August. Rhinehart is hopeful that a revamped points system in the FedEx Cup playoffs at least will allow for more possibilities _ and more drama _ in the season finale at East Lake with $10 million for the winner.
TV ratings likely will see the biggest change.
Woods spikes ratings when he plays, even more when he is in contention, with ratings more than 50 percent higher last year on the weekend in tournaments where he competed. The U.S. Open went prime time last week in San Diego, and drew the highest ratings for a U.S. Open in six years.
NBC Sports might have gotten off easy. It broadcasts a dozen PGA Tour events. Woods played in four of them and won three _ the Accenture Match Play Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational and U.S. Open.
"There's no way to quantify it," NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer said Thursday. "Yes, he has an impact. He's the most dominant figure in any sport in America. He has an impact on ratings. But when you construct a golf package, you don't know that Tiger is going to compete. And you don't know that he's going to be in contention."
The rest of NBC's tour events are part of the FedEx Cup playoffs. The other is the Ryder Cup, which was popular even before Woods turned pro and is the one event that can get by without him.
CBS Sports televises half of the tour's regular-season events, but ends the year showing Woods just twice _ at the Buick Invitational, which he won by eight shots to start his season, and the Masters. It will not have him at the Bridgestone Invitational, which he has won a record six times, or the PGA Championship, the final major of the year where Woods is the two-time defending champion.
But there are 20 weeks left in the season, and Woods was scheduled to play nine times.
PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said Woods' absence likely will be felt early, but he noted that other story lines emerged during his two-month layoff after the Masters when Anthony Kim and Adam Scott were part of a youth movement winning tournaments.
He also pointed to tournaments with large attendance (John Deere Classic) and those that raise the most money for charity (Valero Texas Open), as ones Woods doesn't play, anyway.
"Does that mean Tiger being out the rest of the year isn't going to influence the casual fan from watching? There will probably be a negative impact in that regard," Votaw said. "But it's not going to prevent us from growing."
One area where Woods could boost business is gambling.
William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said the bookmaker was refunding money to those who bet on Woods winning two or three majors because he won't be playing the British Open or PGA Championship. Anyone who bet on him winning one was paid off. Those who bet on Woods winning no majors or all four have already lost.
Sharpe, however, said the volume of wagers could go up now that Woods isn't playing Royal Birkdale.
"It's an enormously wide-open contest now," Sharpe said. "Before, what was the point of backing Tiger? Because the odds were too short, and there was no point betting the field because he was going to win. That prevented a lot of people from betting. Now the punters will say they have a reasonable chance of winnings, and they'll get good odds."
But he is worried about one man from Scotland who recently bet 10,000 British sterling on 10-to-1 odds that Woods will match Jack Nicklaus' record 18 majors by the end of 2010.
"He's probably sending Tiger some special medication for his leg," Sharpe said.