Kapalua, Hawaii:Not even Tiger Woods is bigger than the sport itself and golf will continue to prosper with or without its marquee star, says 18-time major championship winner Jack Nicklaus.
"It's not all about one person," Nicklaus said on Friday.
"The game is a big game."
Nicklaus has said previously he expects Woods to eventually break his major championship record but even if it doesn't happen, the sport always have a strong world-wide popularity.
"Tiger always has been a big influence on the game," said Nicklaus, who is four majors ahead of Woods.
"But the game had Bobby Jones, the game had Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Nicklaus.
"The game always survived that. The game will continue to go forward. Tiger is a big influence, probably the largest one we ever had. And certainly, we hope he comes back and plays. Nicklaus said this year would be crucial to Woods as three (Augusta, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews) of the four majors are on courses where the World No. 1 Woods has had great success in the past.
"If Tiger is going to pass my record, this is a big year for him in that regard," said Nicklaus, who turns 70 later this month.
Woods announced recently he is taking an 'indefinite break' from golf to try and rescue his family life after numerous allegations of affairs with different women. Since 1995 Woods has competed in every US Open and Masters tournament.
"I don't know the answer what he's going to do and what he's going to play. He's the only one who can answer that," Nicklaus said. "Certainly, this year with where the majors are... he basically owns all three places.
"If he doesn't play this year, the chore will be a little tougher."