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While that perception has unquestionably changed, the demographics of the sport both inside and outside the PGA Tour ropes have been slower to follow.

According to the National Golf Foundation, the initial massive jump in popularity enjoyed by the sport between 1996 and 2000 seems to have flat-lined. In 2000, there were 30 million golfers in the United States and course construction was at a high mark (nearly 300 new courses annually). By the time the National Golf Foundation (NGF) published its 2006 survey, the number of Americans regularly participating in the sport had dropped to 28.7 million, and nearly as many courses were being closed as opened.

Woods‘ play spiked golf’s overall popularity, but the game’s expense, time commitment and difficulty conspired to halt that explosive growth. In terms of minority interest, Woods‘ impact has been statistically enormous, if effectively less obvious. Since 1996, the NGF reports more than a 360 percent increase among black golfers older than 18 (from 360,000 to 1.3 million). However, those black participants still represent less than 5 percent of the nation’s golfing population.

The anticipated “Tiger effect” has yet to come to fruition if one looks at the demographics of the PGA Tour or college golf teams. Woods is still the tour’s only player with first-generation black heritage. And only one player on tour (Australian rookie Nick Flanagan) traces his interest in the game directly to Woods.

“I watched him win the Masters in 1997 and instantly dropped soccer for golf,” said Flanagan, who earned a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour late last season because of his three victories on the Nationwide Tour.

But Woods calls for patience on this front. Through his Tiger Woods Foundation and affiliation with the First Tee, Woods has raised nearly $90 million for academic and athletic scholarships and programs and introduced the game to more than 10 million young people, most disadvantaged and between the ages of 5 and 17.

“If you want more minorities, you’ve got to have a bigger base,” said Woods. “As my dad would say, that will take at least 20 years before you start seeing it. You can’t just have 10 players and expect that one of the 10 is going to make it to the elite level. You’ve got to have hundreds in order to expect one to make it to the elite level.”

In fact, it might be unrealistic to ever expect the Tiger effect to produce a rival inspired by his greatness. Woods‘ success is the confluence of some extremely rare competitive extremes: his unique upbringing, his outrageous physical talents, his unearthly focus and his incomparable commitment. Few players on tour have known Woods longer than fellow California native Arron Oberholser, who dueled with him on the junior and college circuits.

“There is only one Tiger Woods,” Oberholser said. “The cool thing about Tiger is that he’s such a good dude. He’s just like the guy next door, except he’s the most famous athlete on the planet. He’s a regular guy. But make no mistake, he’s the most special player the game has ever seen.”