While it is a great field that will take to Riviera to contest the Nissan[photopress:woods_1_2.jpg,full,alignright] today, most of the talk is about who isn’t there. So it doesn’t matter that Phil, Ernie, Retief, Vijay and (for Canadians) Mike Weir are playing. What matters is that Tiger isn’t.
So what does it mean to the PGA Tour that Tiger has only shown up for one event this year?
Tribune golf writer Ed Sherman thinks Woods is preparing for later in the year when he’ll likely have to play more frequently:
Woods also appears to be back-loading his schedule. If the past is any indication, he likely will enter 19 PGA Tour events this year. With the tour’s new season-ending playoff format, he probably sees himself playing six tournaments in seven weeks, beginning with the Bridgestone Invitational (a World Golf Championship event) in early August through the Tour Championship in mid-September.
To compensate, Woods appears to be making sure he gets some R&R now, thus lopping off the Nissan.
So much for Commissioner Tim Finchem’s hope that with the new condensed schedule, players (i.e. Woods) would play more early events.
But Art Spander, the columnist for the Tribune that isn’t swamped with snow at the moment, has a feeling the whole affair is more calculated:
The opinion here is Tiger is trying to send a message to the tour, and it isn’t a very complimentary one. He’s pushed out of shape because the PGA Tour has, in effect, tried to push him around.
First, the dates were shifted a week later for his Target Challenge in December, Tiger’s charity event at Sherwood Country Club on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains from Riviera. Woods was not at all pleased with that treatment.
Then, the tour came up with its FedEx Cup plan, forcing the players to backload their schedule by entering six events in a seven-week stretch during August and September. The idea behind the FedEx Cup, other than the declared one of having a seasonal champion, was to get Tiger and Phil to play more during the year.
Of course this means no to Tiger at the Canadian Open, as has become typical. But I still think there’s a good chance Tiger doesn’t play in the FedEx four tournament series in September, and if he happens to, will he be prepared to show up in Montreal for the Presidents Cup at the end of that month? I bet Royal Montreal — and the corporations that have spent a fortune on tents at the event — is counting on him to be there.
But Geoff Shackelford thinks there is something greater going on. He thinks Tiger is preparing for a day when he doesn’t need his PGA Tour card and plays without an affiliation. After all, it isn’t like he’ll need their retirement plan.
More stunning is the subliminal message Tiger appears to be sending the PGA Tour: I don’t need you anymore. And he’s right.