Want Woods to play? Hire him

Want Woods to play? Hire him

Don't tell TV networks, tourney founders and writers that golf isn't all about Tiger Woods.
Robert Beck/SI

It’s funny how quickly the supposedly hard-hitting Washington media forgot about the bad treatment the defunct Booz Allen Classic (formerly the Kemper Open) received from the PGA Tour once the D.C. area became the replacement venue for the International in July.

If you need a reminder that golf is the ultimate selfish game, this is it. Washington has a date on the Tour schedule again and Tiger Woods is involved, so all is well. Nevermind that the tournament is built on the bones of two other events—the International, whose founder Jack Vickers pulled the plug when he couldn’t land a sponsor and blamed Woods for not playing his tournament, and the Booz Allen, whose corporate head had a letter in writing from commissioner Tim Finchem promising the tournament a pre-U.S. Open date three out of four years. When the new Tour schedule came out, of course, the Booz Allen not only didn’t have a pre-Open didn’t, it didn’t have any date. This slight came after the Tour said it would renovate the TPC at Avenel, so the Booz Allen moved to Congressional for a year to allow the work to be done … and then no work was done.

The big questions no one in Washington is asking now are: How long did the Tour have this event with Woods and his charity as a beneficiary in its hip pocket? And did the Tour intentionally run off the Booz Allen so it could bring what is essentially a Tiger-sponsored event?

Of course, as long as Tiger is part of the future in D.C., and even if the event someday winds up at dreaded old Avenel, no one is going to worry about the answers.

The secret to getting Tiger to play in an event, by the way, is to hire him. Vickers never tumbled onto that fact or wasn’t able to get it done. Woods explained his absence from the International, which he played twice and never returned, by saying he simply didn’t like the golf course at Castle Rock, Colo.

The smartest operators were Buick, which signed Woods to an endorsement deal, with Tiger subsequently making the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines and the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich., regular stops on his schedule while also appearing at the Buick Classic at Westchester; and American Express, which guaranteed Tiger’s presence in its World Golf Championship events by inking an endorsement deal.

Looking ahead, the fallout from Tiger’s commitment to play regularly in the new Washington event means one less tournament he’s going to play the rest of the year. Unless he’s going to add to his schedule—which seems unlikely—adding a Tiger here means taking a Tiger away from somebody else.v

His schedule is largely spoken for now. There are the four majors, plus the Players Championship. There are three World Golf Championship events — the Accenture World Match Play, CA Championship (formerly AmEx) at Doral and the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. His charity will benefit from the AT&T National, the new Washington event (which he may miss this year because his wife is due to give birth in early- to mid-July), and it was also a major recipient of proceeds from the Deutsche-Bank Classic in the Boston area, so he played there. The Deutsche-Bank is now part of the FedEx Cup finale.v

So let’s do the math: that’s four majors, a Players, two Buicks, three WGCs and possibly four FedEx Cups. That’s 14 tournaments. He has won four times at Bay Hill and lives only a few miles from the course. That’s 15, the Tour minimum, and the same number he played last year.

He missed the Memorial Tournament, hosted by Jack Nicklaus, for the first time last year while mourning the death of his father, Earl Woods. That’s 16, if he resumes playing there. He picks up nice appearance money for few international performances—Dubai, where he not only gets a fee of several million but has landed a $20-million course-design deal; China; and the HSBC Match Play at Wentworth. That’s 19.

He teed it up at the Wachovia Championship in 2004 and ’05 and has played the Nissan Open at Riviera in nine of the last 11 years. There is also the winners-only Mercedes Championship to kick off the season, which he skipped the last two years, and his own offseason tournament, the Target World Challenge.

That’s a full schedule in the eyes of Woods. Other Tour stops that hope he might finally give them a visit should think again. Perhaps Woods will make the occasional cameo somewhere else, such as Pebble Beach, where he won, or the EDS Byron Nelson Classic—although Nelson the legend has passed on and Woods clearly wasn’t thrilled with the Cottonwood course on his last visit, where his consecutive in-the-money streak ended at 142, so I’m guessing we won’t see him back in the Big D in the near future.

If there’s one thing to be learned about the whole Washington golf revival, it’s that many are preoccupied with Tiger. That includes the TV networks, golf writers who analyze his schedule, the public and even tournament founders like Vickers.

If there’s another thing to be learned this year, it’s that Tiger isn’t the only show. The four-man playoff won by Mark Wilson at the Honda Classic proved that. So did the PODS Championship finish with Mark Calcavecchia and Heath Slocum. So did the Accenture Match Play Championship, where rising Henrik Stenson and Geoff Ogilvy threw impressive eagles at each other early in the final round.

Golf isn’t all about Tiger … except, of course, when it is.