Tiger as tournament host a strange scene at AT&T National

Tiger as tournament host a strange scene at AT&T National

Tiger Woods is hosting, but not playing in, the AT&T National event this week.
Matt Rourke/AP

Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour this week at the AT&T National — but he won’t be playing golf. He’ll be the tournament host.

That’s a funny image when you think about it. The publicity-fatigued Woods seems like the last golfer you’d picture as a tournament host. A batch of celebrities have served as tournament figureheads over the years, from Bob Hope and Joe Garagiola, to Danny Thomas, Andy Williams, Dinah Shore and Jamie Farr. The great Byron Nelson is still in a tournament title, although he’s no longer with us. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are the men behind the Memorial Tournament and Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, respectively.

Tiger Woods, tournament host? Do you think he’ll be hanging out on the range, walking up and down the line, bantering with the players? Hmm, trying to picture that …

“Hey, Veej! Try hitting a draw once in a while! You been working out?”

“How’s it goin’ there, Stephen Ames? You got a match? I’ve got one. It’s 9 and 8!”

“Yo, Weirsy. How about a rematch from that Presidents Cup in Montreal where I let you beat me? Yeah, I said let you. Seriously, I don’t want a rematch. It was a Presidents Cup.”

Nah, I’m not seeing it. Tiger Woods as a glad-handing master of ceremonies just does not compute.

Maybe he’d do better at the part where the tournament host stops by the media center for a long, wide-ranging chat with his friends from the press, and doesn’t leave until he’s satisfied that every possible question has been answered, the way Jack and Arnie do at their tournaments. Or any other time they visit the press tent.

Nah, I’m not seeing that, either. Tiger is already on record as saying, “It is what it is.” That should cover everything, right? Perfect, as Tiger likes to say.

Well, then he’ll probably settle for heading to the CBS tower to share the booth with Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo and toss in his expertise on the course, storied old Aronimink, and how the holes should be played. It’s what Nicklaus does annually during the Memorial’s broadcast at Muirfield Village, a course he designed and continually tweaks. Here’s how that might go:

Nantz: “Tiger, Joe Schlabotnik is in the fairway bunker here, and he’s got 230 yards over a lake to the green. What do you think?”

Tiger: “Probably 6-iron. With a slight cut.”

Faldo: “Crumbs!”

All right, that probably isn’t going to happen, either. Especially since Nantz was critical of Tiger for his recurring use of swear words last year. He also once opined that Tiger “is not bigger than the game.”

The event’s focus is not on Tiger, but the official tournament website has its share of Tiger tie-ins. You can enroll at a Tiger Woods Learning Center with a few simple clicks. There are links to the Tiger Woods Foundation, Tiger Jam and the Chevron World Challenge. There’s also information on a little-known, ultra-exclusive outing called the Tiger Woods Invitational, which includes three rounds of golf on the Monterey Peninsula — which presumably include Pebble Beach since accommodations are at the Pebble Beach Lodge — plus an exhibition and dinner hosted by Woods. If you sign up, have a credit card with a large limit handy.

The tournament has a nice military flavor. There’s a tribute wall near the entrance, where fans can write personal messages to members of the U.S. military, a military care package tent, and a new Lockheed Martin Military Pavilion, which is open to anyone with a military ID. More than 30,000 active-duty soldiers received free tickets. Players and caddies will also wear special pins Saturday in support of the nation’s servicemen and women.

It will almost be enough to make you forget that Tiger Woods isn’t playing this week.

But whatever happens this week, it isn’t likely to have much effect on the world rankings. Only four players among the world’s top 20 will compete: Nick Watney (15); K.J. Choi (16); Jim Furyk (19) and Hunter Mahan (20). That’s right, none of the world’s top ten will be teeing it up.

Among the missing: Bubba Watson, who will play instead at the French Open, and a handful of PGA Tour players who signed up for next week’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart as a British Open tune-up, including Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Graeme McDowell. Your U.S. Open champion, Rory McIlroy, said earlier he wouldn’t play again until the British Open at Royal St. George’s.

The Great White North
The obvious headline from Sunday’s Champions Tour finish in Endicott, N.Y.: Huston, we’ve got a winner. John Huston is the new young gun — if there is such a thing on the senior circuit. Huston won the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in his tour debut and did so in impressive fashion. He’ll be part of a strong field that heads north for this week’s Montreal Championship.

Larry Mize won last year’s event at Fontainebleau Golf Club, the first time it was held in Montreal. The city has proven itself as a pretty good golf town. More than 20,000 fans turned out for Sunday’s finale last year, and crowds were good for the Presidents Cup, not to mention the occasional Canadian Open.

Let me be Franc
June in Paris doesn’t have quite the lilt of April in Paris, but it works for golf. The Alstom Open de France, more commonly known as the French Open, will be played at Le Golf National. Miguel Angel Jimenez became the event’s oldest winner a year ago at 46 when he survived a three-man playoff to take the title. Jimenez is back, naturally, in a field that, like this week’s event in the United States, is not loaded with high-ranking players.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, ranked fourth, will play. So will last week’s BMW International champ Pablo Larrazabal, Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, Matteo Manassero, Alvaro Quiros and recent Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie (no, he’s not eligible for the senior tour yet but thanks for asking).

The contingent of French golfers includes Jean Van de Velde.

Short game
Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton, who won last week’s Mexico Open on the Nationwide tour, will play at Aronimink … The LPGA tour takes a week off after its Wegman’s LPGA Championship, won by 22-year-old Yani Tseng, her fourth major title. … Forget the FedEx Cup. Let’s check in on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Luke Donald leads with 2.6 million Euros, followed by Charl Schwartzel, 1.8 million, and Rory McIlroy, 1.7 million. Thought you’d want to know … The only notable change in the Rolex Rankings for the LPGA was that Paula Creamer, who tied for third at the Wegman’s LPGA Championship, moved up three places to eighth. How was last year’s Women’s U.S. Open champion not in the top ten? … Hale Irwin tied for tenth at Dick’s, which means he and Bob Charles temporarily share the Champions Tour record for most career top-10 finishes with 203. Yes, Irwin is playing this week in Montreal … The Nationwide tour takes two weeks off before starting its Ohio swing — the Chiquita Classic in Maineville, Ohio, and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational in Columbus. The latter is played on Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course. Ex-Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor is not expected to attend.