Tour Confidential: Bubba's Return, Olympic Golf and a Tiger-less Match Play

Tiger Woods, Fred Couples
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Can Fred Couples convince Tiger to put Riviera back on his schedule? Not likely.

3. Fred Couples was named an ambassador for the Northern Trust Open. Will Couples be able to convince Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott to commit to playing Riviera in the future?

BAMBERGER: The secret to Fred's popularity, as a person and as a Presidents Cup captain and I guess now as a Northern Trust Open ambassador (whatever that means) is that he doesn't ask anybody to do anything.

GODICH: Good luck with that, Freddie. Should a couple of guys with Southern California roots have to be begged to play in an event with the history that Riviera has?

VAN SICKLE: Tournaments are only as good as their dates (as they pertain to players' schedules) and their courses. Riviera is a classic that is very popular. But due to late-season play and appearance-fee chasing in the Middle East and Asia, February is no longer a great month to attract top players who are already looking for a break. Everybody loves Fred. He might sway some players.

WALKER: This event couldn’t have a better ambassador than Couples, and Mickelson will be back, but unless Northern Trust is hiring golfers as corporate “spokesmen,” we won’t see Woods, Scott or McIlroy at Riviera.

LYNCH: Players largely make decisions on personal schedules, not appeals from fellow pros. If Jack and Arnie have to battle to attract the biggest names each year for the Tour stops they created and nurtured, what weight will entreaties from Couples really carry? Anyway, I think there's a better chance of Cheyenne Woods playing Riviera than of her uncle returning.

RITTER: Doubt he can sway Tiger since it seems like Woods isn't a fan of the course, but the others? Sure, Freddie's presence can't hurt.

PASSOV: Phil nearly always plays Riviera and Adam Scott is a former champion, so they'll likely be back anyway. The great weather, firmer, faster conditions and smoother greens in 2014 had to impress a few of the folks who have stayed away. It will be hard to say no to Freddie, but Tiger is pretty resolute about where, when and why he plays, no matter how he feels about Captain Couples.

SENS: Sure, as long as he and a few sultans can get together and rustle up an acceptable appearance fee.

SHIPNUCK: Not Tiger, but yes on the other three. If we're lucky.

4. Speaking of absences, what does it say about the status of this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship when Woods, Mickelson and Scott are missing from the event?

SHIPNUCK: It says the course is lame. Get a better venue and they'll be back. Except for Phil, for whom spring break with his kids is more important.

BAMBERGER: It says that they cannot stand the course and that last-place money means nothing to them and, in the case of Woods and Mickelson, just a tiny little way of thumbing their noses at the commissioner.

GODICH: It's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the venue.

PASSOV: The WGC Match Play and Dove Mountain near Tucson really have a lame-duck feeling going on. Whether it was the Wednesday snow last year, the consistently chilly conditions in years past, or the lukewarm reception to the Nicklaus design, this event has not delivered on its promise. It's as if Woods, Mickelson and Scott have teamed up to say, "Enough." Doing your brackets is much more fun than watching the actual matches.

LYNCH: It says nothing about the stature of the event. It just speaks to the reality of Tour pros as independent contractors making decisions that work for them. I don't subscribe to the notion that these absences are based on a dislike of the course (though it is thoroughly mediocre). Golfers who play for a living like predictability, and match play doesn't offer that. The only guarantee for players this week is that they will make it to the 10th green on Wednesday. That's the real issue.

VAN SICKLE: It says that top players have so much money, money they'll never be able to spend, that even a guaranteed $40,000-plus payday means nothing to them. If they don't like a golf course (and they don't like this contrived, over-the-top desert design) and they don't love the site (the Ritz-Carlton is fabulous, but it's not near anything, including Tucson) and they don't love the weather (snow and cold twice in the last three years), they vote with their feet. Plus they've never been big fans of a tournament where they often are embarrassingly sent home Wednesday after a first-round elimination. Not cool.

RITTER: It's time for a new venue. Since Accenture is ending its sponsorship, that's almost guaranteed to happen. Here's what they should do: move it to July and play it in Michigan, where great golf fans and course options would all but ensure it becomes one of the season's best non-majors.

SENS: That they have too much money and the event has not enough pull.

WALKER: Is anyone going to miss Mickelson and Scott at a match-play event other than their projected first-round opponents? People are only going to miss Tiger, who’s probably the best match-play player of all time. In his case, he planned on being at the Olympics this week, and he apparently collected enough money in the Middle East and India to pass on a limited-field event with a $9 million purse.

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