WE MISS TIGER WOODS.

We miss his smile, we miss how he wins so much. We miss how he seems to crush

everyone and we love to see how his rivals seem to melt in his red-shirt brilliance.

Golf is that way. The more someone wins, the more fans he gets. It isn't like team sports, where emotions and loyalties tend to run 50-50. Once you don't like the Cowboys, you probably will never like the Cowboys. But Tiger gets new fans all the time, as people jump on to watch him make history.

Tiger has not played since he won the U.S. Open in June. He had knee surgery 6 minutes later.

Golf survived without him,

but barely. There were two

majors, both won by Padraig

Harrington. Vijay Singh has won a few tournaments. That's about it, though. No juice,

nobody jazzed about golf.

Everybody's waiting.

Tiger is supposed to return, maybe, in February. There have been reports that he has been

hitting some balls and putting. Tiger being Tiger, his focus is on the Masters, in April.

The Reuters news agency reports that Tiger has occupied the No. 1 ranking a record total of 529 weeks, first claiming the top spot on June 15, 1997. He has held the position since regaining it from Vijay Singh on June 12, 2005.

Now, Reuters dutifully reports, Tiger is in

danger of losing the top spot. In fact, because of his inactivity, he could lose it before the Masters.

We will not try to explain the ranking points system, because we do not understand it ourselves and we would consider it patently cruel.

Just know that Sergio Garcia - ahem, a guy who has never won a major championship - is

in the best shape to take over the top spot.

Should he drop, Tiger would not lose support. Fans are eagerly waiting his return, and cautiously hoping to see the old Tiger on a reconstructed knee.

Sports fans want to see him win and they want to see him dominate. Golf fans want their sport back - with Tiger in it, bounding down the fairways, with everybody paying attention. *

- Chuck Bausman