Even after everything that has happened the past couple of years -- on and off the golf course -- Tiger Woods remains the world's most recognizable athlete.
He still brings in huge TV ratings, which bring in sponsors, who bring in the piles of cash that have made the PGA Tour a millionaires' club.
When he's on the leaderboard, especially at major championships, he still brings in the casual fan that otherwise has little interest in the sport.
He's still good for golf, even when, because of injury or infidelity, his golf hasn't been good.
But is Woods bigger than the game? Until the past couple of years, such an argument could be made. He was the best golfer and highest-paid athlete on the planet. His presence was so compelling that Tiger-less tournaments sometimes struggled and at least one, The International in Colorado, folded.
Indeed, he was that big.
But now? Dealing with a self-inflicted, scandal-driven divorce? Adjusting to life as a single dad? Battling a troublesome left knee and nagging Achilles tendon? Now, he's not.
He's not the same golfer, same guy, same omnipotent force that he was throughout the first 14 years of his historic career. He's 35 and hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. He hasn't won anywhere since the 2009 Australian Masters.
And, still recovering from those leg injuries, he won't win this week's British Open, which teed off without him Thursday at Royal St. George's.
Yet the game goes on.
The Masters was still The Masters, even though Woods needed a 67 on Sunday to finish fourth, four strokes behind winner Charl Schwartzel.
The U.S. Open was still the U.S. Open, even though Woods didn't play, as 21-year-old Rory McIlroy, after hard-to-watch collapses at last year's British Open and the Masters in April, treated us to a wonderful story of redemption by dominating the field at Congressional.
So there's no good reason to believe this week's British Open, with McIlroy heading a new generation of gifted golfers, won't produce another memorable championship -- especially since the past 11 majors were won by 11 different men, the last five of which had an average age of 27.
Pay no attention to the know-nothings who blather on about Woods' absence being the most newsworthy aspect of the tournament. The fact that Woods didn't play in last month's U.S. Open was quickly forgotten, swept away by McIlroy's spectacular performance.
Fact is, there are too many other terrific golfers, including young Americans like Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, to say Tiger-less golf isn't compelling, can't sell, doesn't matter. These guys really are good. And the game is too good.
Sure, Woods is missed. He's still the biggest name in golf. But he's not bigger than the game.