Back when Tiger Woods was seen as a great role model, golf was never more popular. People encouraged it for their children, and Tiger was seen as an inspiration. Now that Tiger has taken the fall, the image of golf has gone with it, because they are just like all other professional athletes that take advantage of others.
It is my opinion that the personal issues of certain high profile players has a very negative impact on the sport of golf.
Tigger Woods has behaved in a very unprofessional manner. He was seen by many as a role model for young children, and his personal life choices are definitely not something to be admired.
He drew unnecessary attention to the game, not because of how he played on the links, but for what he chose to do off the course.
Tiger created a massive bubble in golf popularity (because you all are racist, only caring about a golfer because of his skin color, semi-jk), that bubble will go away, back to the pre-Tiger levels, but it isn't really going to dip further than that. That is what people need to understand about bubbles, they go away eventually.
They say all press is good press. Golf should take that to heart and start searching for a new answer to why golf is not as popular as they would hope. That answer may lie in the fact that golf is an old, white boy's game. In the United States today, old white boys are losing their majority but have not yet really let others enjoy the game. Once they do, the game will improve its image.
Tiger Woods' personal image, while initially affecting the popularity of golf, probably has had no long-term affect. Sports figures have been plagued with personal problems made public for as long as I can remember. It doesn't seem that the love of a sport if affected by scandal. Any decline in the popularity of the game can probably be attributed to other causes, such as time of year, economics and/or the age group evaluated.