No Tiger, no ratings

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ABC better be braced for a major bust. From a strictly American perspective, it has been nearly 50 years since a British Open featured less appeal than next week’s gathering at Royal Birkdale.

Consider the following nationalistic grand slammer: First and most painfully, Tiger Woods isn’t teeing it up. Though golf fans have had a month to adjust to the notion of a major without Woods, there will be an emotional thud when his streak of major starts ends next Thursday at 46.

But Woods’ absence is far from the only turnoff for this country’s audience. Who are the two hottest players on the planet right now? Answer (and there’s no debate here): Kenny Perry and Anthony Kim.

Doubling the angst he created by skipping the U.S. Open, Perry also has decided to skip the British Open because he doesn’t like the long trip or links golf. His goals entering the season were to represent his country in his home state in the Ryder Cup in Louisville, Ky., and contend for the FedEx Cup. With two victories in his last four starts, the 47-year-old has locked up a Ryder Cup berth and stands third - behind Phil Mickelson and the inactive Woods - on the FedEx points list.

The 23-year-old Kim will be in the field at Birkdale, but he has about as much chance of contending for the claret jug as Perry. That’s because Kim, with two victories in his last five starts, has never played a single round of links golf. The transition from primarily aerial traditional American target golf to ground-centric British Isles links golf involves a definite learning curve. It would be surprising if Kim even makes the cut.

“I never have played links golf,” Kim said via teleconference Wednesday. “I’m very excited and eager to get over there to see what it’s like. I know that you’re going to have to hit a lot of bump-and-runs. You’re going to have to keep the ball down, and the greens are probably going to be a little bit slower than what we play out here on the PGA Tour.”

Then there’s Mickelson, the No. 2 player in the world. Sure, Lefty will be at Birkdale, but he just should save the jet fuel. Mickelson is a traditionally dreadful wind player who has one top-10 to show for his 14 trips across the Atlantic. He finished third in 2004.

That means golf’s top four Americans are likely to post an 0-fer on the British Open leader board. It doesn’t matter. It’s about good golf, not just the Americans.

But the expected poor showing by U.S. golfers is almost certain to crush ABC’s ratings.

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