You can play golf with Tiger Woods right this very minute

This morning, Tiger Woods, clad once again in his classic red and black, stepped up to the tee at the famous 17th at Sawgrass, the gallery cheering his every move.

Didn't hear about it, did you? Of course not, because it happened only on my computer. EA Sports has rolled out the open beta of its Tiger Woods online game, and now you too can remember what it's like to see Tiger on the course Pre-Hydrant. (For what it's worth, my Tiger, either rusty from the layoff or ticked at me for writing all these articles, flew the green and dunked the ball off the tee.)

The Tiger Woods online game is a small but important step in the Tiger saga. This marks the first new initiative by a sponsor since everything went south for Woods. And while other sponsors like Accenture, AT&T and Gillette headed for the hills, Electronic Arts, the creator of the famous Tiger Woods video game franchise, doubled down on Woods.

EA Sports President Peter Moore has said it would be "unimaginable" not to have Woods as the public face of its video game line. And for those looking for good news in all this Tiger Woods mess, that's a positive sign indeed. Other sponsors, encouraged by the way that EA and Nike have stood by Tiger, may well begin returning in the coming months.

Of course, it's not like EA really had a choice. The Tiger Woods franchise is one of the most successful in sports gaming history, one that even the pros play. Last year before the Players Championship -- held at the aforementioned Sawgrass, of course -- Rory McIlroy mentioned that he was familiar with the course from playing it so often in video games, but that the real beast was much harder than the Tiger version.

You can play a demo of the online game for free right here, and free registration gets you access to St. Andrews, Pebble Beach and other courses. There are the requisite multiplayer and tournament options, of course, so if the field at the Bob Hope Classic doesn't exactly thrill you, you can create your own. I can already tell that this thing is going to be seriously addictive, so if posts here dry up for a week or so, you'll probably be able to find me on the virtual Pebble.

And no, there are no dodge-the-wife or juggle-the-mistresses mini-games. Maybe those will be added later, but I kinda doubt it.

Tiger Woods Online [EA Sports]


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