The One Where Almost Everyone Bemoans a Tigerless Tour
By Stephanie Wei under General

The PGA Tour kicks off the 2010 season today in Maui with the SBS Championship. While we’re all excited for play on the golf course to return, the absence of Tiger, who usually isn’t even in the field, is causing all sorts of ruckus.

First, let’s hear from some of the players via Doug Ferguson’s article:

“I think it’s an interesting time,” [Geoff] Ogilvy said. “Obviously, No. 1 in the world might be up for realistic grabs this year, depending on how it all takes shape.”

“He wins six times, he plays 15,” [Pat] Perez said. “There’s what, 38 events? So there’s always a lot up for grabs. I hope the people can see there is more to the Tour than just Tiger. We know how great he is. We know the whole thing. No one is questioning that. Maybe people will have a chance to say, ‘We are not watching Tiger all the time.’ We have to watch somebody else now while Tiger cleans up this mess…”

In Tuesday’s press conference Commissioner Tim Finchem made his standard “Look on the Bright Side!” opening remarks and then reluctantly answered Tiger-dominated questions. I especially enjoyed the dialogue between Finchem and one brave soul who grilled him:

Q. Have you talked to Tiger or attempted to talk to him?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:  Have I talked to who?

Q. Tiger?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:  I answered this question before.  The answer
is, I have not.

Q. When?
FINCHEM:  The day I did my press conference.

Q. It’s a few weeks later?

FINCHEM:  No, I have not talked to Tiger.  No, I have not talked to him.  I don’t know when I would talk to him.

Q. It’s been three weeks, I just thought I would ask.
FINCHEM:  When I address that, I thought I addressed it in this context that he asks for privacy.  We pledged our commitment to give him privacy so that would include me trying to talk to him.

Q. I understand that.  I thought with a personal relationship, if you tried to reach him at all?


Cranky Commissioner. Anyone know the identity of the question-asker? That was brilliantly done. /Hi-5!

Moving along! From Larry Dorman’s article:

Y. E. Yang, the South Korean golfer who beat Woods head to head at last year’s P.G.A. Championship, said he had not given it much thought. But he said through an interpreter that many of his friends in golf have “half-heartedly and jokingly” posed questions about it, like: “Are you going to miss Tiger for a while, right? Or, aren’t you glad Tiger is not there. Since Tiger is not there, you don’t have anyone to beat. It’s always been more fun and silly comments.”

“I’m on record saying I hope he comes back tomorrow, as soon as possible,” [Lucas] Glover said. “Because we need him and sports needs him. You could say, man, this is a great opportunity. But at the same time, say somebody goes out and wins four tournaments, and they happen to be four that Tiger usually plays. Do they still get the credit because he wasn’t there? There are several ways to look at it.”

And then, Lawrence Donegan pointed out the need to reevaluate the Tour’s business plan despite optimistic assessments by several suits who remain in denial:

“There were two other times in the last three years where he [Woods] took a prolonged leave of absence and on both occasions we came through it very well,” says Ty Votaw, a PGA Tour spokesman.

“It isn’t ideal that he isn’t around, but maybe it behoves everyone in the sport to explore other stories and look to other players. People say Tiger Woods is the greatest ever but I have never been in that boat. There have been great players in the past and there will be great players in the future,” says Brandel Chamblee, a commentator on the Golf Channel.

“When Arnold Palmer stopped playing the PGA Tour didn’t grind to a halt. Tiger is a great player and he will be back at some point, but maybe this is a chance for other players to shine,” says David Yates, president of Gaylord Sports Management, which represents 20 PGA Tour players, including Phil Mickelson.

True. True. And true again. But in this instance three truths don’t necessarily add up to a complete picture. Woods will be missed, and to a far greater extent than those within the game are prepared to admit, albeit for perfectly understandable reasons. It is bad for business, especially in this economy, to make too much of the absence of your biggest star and the lack of what marketing gurus would call “cross-over appeal” when it comes to the vast majority of golfers. The difficulty comes in quantifying exactly what Woods’s disappearing act will cost the sport.

Yep, sums it up nicely. So, you see, Tiger, get the obligatory public apology over with and come back. And where are you? Apparently a few might be nearing a scoop (no, he’s not in a sex addiction rehab, etc.)…maybe TBD soon? (Trying to track flights for tail numbers registered to Tiger, Inc. becomes, you know, excruciatingly silly after a while — what does “GTW” Corp. stand for, anyway?)

As a golf geek, I’m perfectly happy watching guys like Pat Perez (for, like, two more months), but I’m probably in the minority. I guess let’s just enjoy the good play and nice Maui views this week and hopefully some of you are in warmer climates than NYC and Seattle.