Was the Masters, with its low ratings and disappointing ticket prices, an aberration or an indication of trouble in the golf world?

Fans better hope for the former, but one writer is predicting the latter.

Josh Sens of Golf.com says that golf's struggles, largely caused by Tiger Woods' absence as he recovers from back surgery, could cost the industry $15 billion.

The number is calculated from a host of different factors, including ticket prices, merchandise sales and, down the road, advertising dollars. While advertising was not affected by Woods' absence from the Masters, those spots are sold well in advance, ticket prices fell by some 20 percent in the 24 hours after Woods signaled that he would not be playing.

As Woods drops out of more tournaments -- reports indicate that he may have to skip the U.S. Open -- travel, ticket sales and general interest will all take serious hits. Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research for Horizon Media, told Sens that the 25-30 percent ratings drop at tournaments without Woods could translate into similar losses across the board.

Sens calculates that in a golf industry valued at $68.8 billion, that could amount to $15 billion.

Now, it should be noted that Sens' calculation is an extremely rough estimate and it has no shortage of cynics. But the bottom line is that the sport, which is already facing an existential crisis, could be in for a serious blow to its finances.

On the bright side, some experts think these struggles will make the golf industry stronger.

“Life without Tiger can be effectively good for the industry,” Rick Horrow, CEO of Horrow Sports Ventures, told Sens. “It gets promoters, sponsors and TV executives thinking more creatively, working to cultivate a greater understanding and appreciation for the inherent excitement, tradition and allure of golf.”

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