Here’s a clip from NBC which in part blames Tiger—of the lack of Tiger—for the death of the International.
The Denver Post also makes the implication in an article on the demise of the tournament:
Tiger Woods only played twice, the last time in 1999 when it was played a week after the PGA Championship, and that became an issue with Vickers. He often lamented the absence of golf’s top draw, and he continued to ask the tour for different dates. It moved from a week after the PGA Championship to two weeks before the final major, then the week before the PGA.
Yet the biggest factor was the absence of Woods, who hadn’t played in the event since 1999.
“I’d have to say, yeah, if he shows, everything changes,” Vickers told The Associated Press. “But I also know, in fairness to him, he can’t be everywhere. He can’t be everything to everybody.”
Vickers said he was unsuccessful in getting a commitment from Woods, who didn’t come when the event was held in August because it was so close to the PGA Championship, and that prevented him from closing deals with companies he was courting.
“On the one hand, the Tour’s asking for a new five- or six-year commitment and you’ve got a one-man show out there right now that is the big difference,” Vickers said. “And I’ve tried to get an expression, ‘So let’s be honest with each other. Just tell me, if it’s no, it’s no. But I’d like to know if out of six years, you’d play a couple years, even three years. I’d be happy as a lark.’ But I can’t get any commitment.”
It’s an interesting thought. And while exaggerated, it falls in line with my thesis that, increasingly, Tiger is BAD for the PGA Tour. Or perhaps, that Tiger can be bad if the Tour lets it get that way.
Yes, I know that Tiger is single handedly responsible for the exponential increase in purses and interest in golf. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.
There clearly are now two classes of tournaments in golf: not majors and regular Tour events, but Tiger and Non-Tiger events. In the current financial structure, if the Blessed Saint Tiger decides to grace you with his presence (or at least holds out the chance that he will), your Tournament will do well. If not, you may struggle.
The International is perhaps a case in point. It had a great course, a unique scoring system, and apparently was a favorite of many of the top golfers. But it had gone for three years without a sponsor—some say because Tiger had made it clear that he was never, ever going to play there.
I think that the FedEx Cup is the PGA’s attempt to insulate itself against Tiger’s whims. It’s supposed to make him play more often. And I think it will—the first year; and maybe the second. I would not be at all surprised to see him choose not to participate in the future.
Tiger does only what’s good for Tiger. You can see that in his absence from this past weekend’s (and indeed, nearly every year’s) Pebble Beach Pro Am. He took a fat payoff from some rich oil sheik to play in a no-name ego driven event, and thus missed the Pebble Beach. That’s good for Tiger’s billion dollar bank account, but bad for the Tour. The Pebble Beach is the place where corporate executives—the sponsors and lifeblood of the PGA Tour—get to hobnob with the players they support.
Now, Tiger apparently will—for the first time—miss the Nissan Open. That’s the tournament that gave him his first PGA Tour exemption—at age 16.
So why is he missing the Niissan? I think it’s because he’s never won there. Tiger tends to win on the same courses over and again—forty percent of his wins have come on just six courses. He’s never won at Riviera, and thus playing there would not maximize his chances of extending his run at Nelson’s record. His holiness is in search of just two things: records and checks. And Riviera doesn’t offer enough of either.
In other words, it’s not good for Tiger.
The PGA Tour should start right now preparing right now for life without Tiger. I think it would surprise no one if—once he breaks Sam Snead’s record 88 wins—Tiger decides to go “Bobby Jones”: coming out only for the majors and a couple of other select warm up events. He doesn’t need the PGA Tour.
I think that the Tour’s strategy has got to be similar to that of the Champions Tour—making the events more fan friendly; getting the players to engage the spectators; offering on-the-course chit-chat. The tour needs to build up such a massive massive reservoir of good will among fans that when Tiger and his scowl leave, no one will notice.