Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tiger Woods is no longer a Buick employee — his endorsement deal ended this year — but that hasn’t stopped the Buick Invitational from making a big push to land Woods for its Feb. 8 tournament at Torrey Pines, left knee permitting. Mark Figueroa of The North County Times details the comical push that tournament director Tom Wilson has made to get Woods to play at the tournament. When Woods will return to the PGA Tour is an open question, with the Associated Press suggesting the Accenture Match-Play Championship at the end of February, USA Today predicting the Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 23), and Geoff Ogilvy hinting that Doral (March 9) might be convenient for the Florida-based Woods. This week Woods said he’s now able to hit drivers and long irons but he still doesn’t know when he’ll be ready to play competitively.
If Woods is physically able, he’d probably love to return at the Buick Invitational because he’s won it six times. As last year’s U.S. Open proved, Woods enjoys a home-field advantage at Torrey Pines like the one Maximus had at the Colosseum. [Tournament director] Wilson has been trading e-mail barbs with Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, just as a friendly way of keeping the Buick Invitational in the conversation when Woods finally does make his decision.When Woods and Buick ended their endorsement relationship after nine years back in November, Wilson sent Steinberg a message."I said, 'Despite the divorce, we still want him,' " Wilson recalled with a smile.He also let Steinberg know that his daughter is an obstetrician and gynecologist, saying that if Elin Woods could travel, she'd be in good hands during tournament week.When Rocco Mediate committed last week, Wilson pinged Steinberg again, saying the U.S. Open runner-up wanted a rematch.Steinberg's responses haven't given Wilson any insight on just when Woods will return. Steinberg told Wilson that it's just too early to tell. Wilson knows how to have fun pushing Woods’s buttons, but the appearance of the World No. 1 at tournaments is serious business. Figueroa points out that even with a star-power field including Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington, the Buick won’t be the same without Woods. "If Tiger doesn't play, it will certainly have an effect on the tournament," Wilson said. "We're going to have some great players here, but he is the guy. He certainly makes a difference, there's no doubt about it."If Tiger does commit at the last minute, we'll get a bump in sales in every area." The Tiger effect on tournaments might make a good plot for a movie. Imagine this one: The Bushwood Country Club has fallen on hard times and won’t have enough money this year to fund the annual caddie scholarship. The club tries to raise money by hosting a golf tournament, but no one buys tickets. So retiring groundskeeper Carl Spackler decides the only way to save the club — and his job — is to get Tiger Woods to play in it.
Hey, it would be better than Caddyshack 2.

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