Not a spectacular one. Not the greatest golfer of his generation. Not possibly the greatest to ever to wiggle a 5-iron. Woods has never won at Riviera. Not once is nine tries as a professional. Remarkably, there is not one other tournament he has played at least four times and not won. Riviera has made Tiger mortal. Been golf’s great equalizer. Been the one girl George Clooney couldn’t get. So Tiger is taking his zillions and his winning streak and taking a pass. Skipping his biggest personal challenge. It doesn’t matter if he tries to explain himself, which he is not. It’s a dodge, a calculated decision. If he wants to catch Byron Nelson’s all-time PGA streak of 11, it’s probably very smart. But it’s bad news for the Riviera, bad news for the onemajor PGA stop in LosAngeles, a bad day for simple loyalty. Let’s be brutally honest here – the causal sports fan would be hard pressed to name fivegolfers besides Woods. They’d actually have a better chance of describing them than naming them. “Let’s see, there’s Phil Mickelson – or is it Nickelson? There’s the overweight, smoking guy who sings really bad country- western songs. And the Indian who’s really from Fiji whose name I can never figure out if it rhymes with sing. And does Jack Nicklaus still play? And, and &” The average sports fan wouldn’t now Adam Scott from Walter Scott. If you know Jim Furyk is the No.2-ranked player in the world, you’re not a sports nut, you’re a golf fanatic. Tiger is the only player who transcends golf. He is possibly the most recognized sports figure in the world. And if he’s not exactly the most popular athlete, he is the most admired. Someone just shouldn’t be able to dominate golf the way he does. There are just too many variables, too many outstanding players. Players have been reduced to crossing fingers and hoping his impending fatherhood is going to change his play, like no great golfer ever became a dad before. But when you’re getting schooled on your game almost every time he tees it up, you search for optimism where you can. There’s just no one else like him. He’s won 55 PGA Tour events. Captured 12 majors. He’s closing in on becoming a billionaire. And now he has this incredible streak going, the one he has tried to almost dismiss as unimportant. Spare us. It’s a special accomplishment and it’s OK to acknowledge it. OK to say, “Hey, I’ve come this far, I’m going to go for it.” The people at Riviera have been very good about all this. Talked about how he only has missed one other time. Been completely understanding. But really, what can they say? He has reduced our premier event to a minor stop? That he’s the superstar attraction and everyone else is a supporting player? It’s not like Riviera will be devoid of talent. It will have eight of the top 10 players in the world, including Mickelson. Yet Hogan’s Alley without Tiger is a men’s tennis tournament without Roger Federer, the Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning. The others can bravely fight their way through the kikuya, but without Tiger a sense of wonderment is missing. Tiger did not provide an explanation for failing to enter the Nissan. Don’t bother with the “he’s just so tired from having played the Dubai Desert Classic.” Two weeks is plenty of rest. Save the, “he wants to spend more time with his wife, Elin.” He’ll want to spend a lot more after she gives birth this summer. Tiger’s not coming because he doesn’t want to. And what’s unspoken is, he doesn’t want to come and take his winning streak into his personal golfing netherworld. Even if it is home. They’ll play some great golf next week at the Nissan, it just won’t be the same without him. Tiger has taken a pass. Steve Dilbeck’s column appears in the Daily News four times a week. [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The Nissan Open will now officially open next week without Tiger Woods. Guess you can still go. Cheer on those other guys. Exult in the beauty of Riviera Country Club, wave at Mel Brooks’ joint. But you will not be able to follow around the world’s greatest golfer. Will not get an opportunity to see if he can extend his amazing streak of seven consecutive PGA Tour victories. Tiger is taking a pass on his hometown tournament. The first to give him a sponsor’s exemption back when he was this big-toothed, 16-year-old wunderkind from Cypress. That is Tiger’s right, of course. He’s Tiger. He can do whatever he wants. He has earned it. But all that talk about how the streak really doesn’t mean anything to him? Don’t bother, unless stand-up comedy is suddenly his new calling. The Nissan Open has managed to pull off what no player has: Made Tiger look like a really good golfer. It’s the Louvre without the Mona Lisa, the Beatles without John Lennon, the Academy Awards without Oscar. All still very impressive, but just not the same. Like something is desperately, uniquely missing.