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The paths (and downfalls) of Tiger, M.J. and Skipper

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Even though he now comes with baggage a million times heavier than the one carrying his golf clubs, organizers at every PGA tournament around the country want Woods to play in their event. Tickets for the Quail Hollow Championship sold out each year from 2003 to 2008, usually weeks before the start of the tournament. Last year, during an increasing economic recession, ticket sales were off par. When Woods announced that he would be playing here, an additional 1,500 tickets were sold during those final few days.

And then there's the effect of Tiger TV. When he isn't teeing off, TV ratings for PGA tournaments, on average, are down nearly 50 percent. Meanwhile, largely because of the new heightened interest in Woods by non-golf fans, the Masters tournament that Woods played in earlier this month drew a 43-percent ratings increase for first-round coverage on ESPN, and a 36-percent gain for Sunday's final round on CBS, when compared to last year's viewership. Thursday and Friday rounds of the Quail Hollow Championship will air on the Golf Channel; Saturday and Sunday will be shown on CBS.

The Maturation of MJ

Jordan was a year into his role as an investor in and the managing member of basketball operations for the Charlotte Bobcats when he stepped onto the greens that day with Woods and Beck. With his professional basketball playing days long behind him, Jordan is often taking in 18 holes at a golf course somewhere -- his once-famous tongue wag now replaced by a cigar dangling from his mouth. But aside from the occasional photo of Jordan playing in a celebrity golf tournament, most of us don't get to see him on the course.

"It was one of the most amazing Wednesdays I've ever seen," Hougham said. "People were lining up at the driving range in the dark at about 6 a.m. I remember Michael getting a bigger round of ovation on the first tee than Tiger did. That's not going to happen in many places. You don't see two iconic sports figures together, up close and personal like that for four-and-a-half hours anywhere else, let alone a golf course. We were very lucky that happened here at Quail Hollow."

One would think that this round of golf on a beautiful spring day was a welcome reprieve for Jordan. He and his wife of 17 years, Juanita, had just filed for divorce a few months earlier. But the rich greens he was seeing at the Quail Hollow Club would pale in comparison to the green he would shell out later that year once his divorce became final. It's been reported that Mrs. Jordan walked away with $168 million, the highest divorce settlement in U.S. history.

But after a shock to both his pockets and his family life, the NBA legend appears to have bounced back.

Jordan's been making high-profile public appearances with his girlfriend, Cuban model Yvette Prieto, including last year's Kentucky Derby, her prominent seating with his family at his Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony last September, and this year's Super Bowl. She's also been spotted recently at a Bobcats game.

And speaking of the Bobcats, in case you haven't heard, Jordan owns them now, after purchasing majority control last month from Bob Johnson. About two-and-a-half years after giving his ex-wife a third of his fortune, Jordan managed to pull together the funds to pay $275 million for the Bobcats. Even though the franchise is projected to lose millions of dollars this year (as it has the last few), the team is in the playoffs for the first time ever.

Jordan, who has been courtside at just about every home game since becoming the top boss, is pretty much all smiles these days.

But he's had reasons to scoff amid recent allegations that he's partially to blame for Woods's playboy lifestyle. In the May issue of Vanity Fair, in a feature story titled "The Temptation of Tiger Woods," scenes are depicted of Woods and pals Jordan and Charles Barkley engaged in behavior unbecoming of a married man, let alone Woods's then-immaculate public persona. The article reads: "John Merchant [a former adviser] had warned Woods to avoid Jordan and Barkley, saying of Jordan, 'Stay away from that son of a bitch, because he doesn't have anything to offer to the fucking world in which he lives except playing basketball.' Merchant adds, 'Are they his black role models? You've got to be kidding me.'"


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