POIPU BAY, HAWAII — I used to wonder why Tiger Woods lifted weights to play golf. Then I saw what they give the typical tournament winner: a trophy the size of a Ford Focus. Somewhere between the Claret Jug (awarded every year to the winner of the British Open) and the Gold Ingot (given to Fred Couples every December for his inevitable victory in the Seiko Mixed Celebrity Three-Tours Skins & Skills Shootout Challenge), someone decided that a Tour champion needs more than a six-figure paycheck to commemorate his win. He needs a slab of cut crystal that weighs as much as a blacksmith’s anvil. He needs a silver-plated conquistador’s helmet. He needs a carved marble cuspidor.
Consider the trophy for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, which Woods won Wednesday afternoon at the Poipu Bay Golf Course. It’s a brass-plated, double-decker wooden plinth topped with a striking crystal spire that may have inspired the design for the new World Trade Center. It’s a beautiful trophy. Beyond impressive. Trouble is, you need to pour a concrete foundation to display it. Photos of past Grand Slam winners, with only a couple of exceptions, show the smiling champion in a catcher’s crouch behind the trophy, which sits on the ground where the fork-lift left it.
Which brings me back to Tiger. He’s now won seven of these Grand Slam trophies in the last nine years. That means, if my calculations are correct, that he’s warehousing about a half-ton of hardware from a tournament that you only get into by winning another tournament — like, say, the Masters, which weighs down its champions with a solid silver replica of the Augusta National clubhouse. What’s more, according to a rumor I’m starting, the PGA of America is going to recognize Tiger’s 10th Grand Slam victory with an additional “decatrophy,” which will be exactly like the others, only 50 percent bigger and with guy wires to stabilize the spire.
Granted, Tiger is a rich man. He can buy whole islands in Florida and call in the Army Core of Engineers to build a secure trophy room. And a trophy annex. And, eventually, a Federal Tiger Woods Trophy Depository.
But consider the plight of Jim Furyk, Geoff Ogilvy, and Mike Weir, who finished two, six, and nine strokes behind Tiger, respectively, at Poipu Bay. Their “participant’s gift” from the PGA of America was a free-standing wooden locker with leather interior and brass name plate, each locker being large enough to store a staff bag, 10 green jackets, or three PGA Grand Slam trophies.
Furyk has a house on Maui, so he can probably float his locker over on a catamaran or outrigger canoe. But Ogilvy and Weir must be frantic, trying to get their lockers into the overhead bins for the flight to the mainland.
If I were a tournament sponsor, I’d try to cut this trend off at the pass. How about a hummingbird trophy for the winner of The Memorial? How about a commemorative scroll for the Phoenix Open champ? Hey, it’s the digital age. The next time Tiger wins, I’d give him a leather-bound highlights DVD (with bonus features).
Or not. Big is in, ponderous is popular, and somehow the natives on Easter Island moved those big stone statues. Anyway, it’s not in certain people’s interest to discourage big trophies. Look who’s sponsoring the PGA Tour’s new season-ending points race: FedEx.