Gentlemen, start your bateaux! We hope you enjoy another year at East Lake, whose waters have been refreshed by seasonal rains. Blushingly, we welcome the imposing figure of Tiger Woods back into the field. To say he has been missed is to say that we have no appreciation for the 71 percent increase his presence has meant to Tour events.
Look at the PGA Tour roll out all those percentages it has in its book. It can bounce the Tour Championship around from one date to another, to avoid NFL kickoffs, tight major league pennant races, Georgia and Georgia Tech football weekends — and let me warn all ye outlanders that when you dally around with Bulldog and Yellow Jacket conflicts, you have trouble, my friend — and in the long run, only the presence of Tiger Woods can make a real difference.
Sorry, but such is the economic tightrope the Tour Championship walks. And frankly, in this part of the sporting world, it isn’t likely to change. Then this week, the rainmaker goes on a drunk. The course is wet and heavy. Practice time is limited.
Wednesday the sun shone brightly, but weather forecasts for each following date are dreary. So the luckless commissioner can’t get a break, but as he took to the podium to make his annual State of the Tour address, Tim Finchem spoke of television ratings being up, and generally, the future was as bright as the shining sun. (And it was shining at the time.)
It was then that the subject of Woods was introduced.
“Yes,” he said, “Tiger drives ratings.”
So that pretty well covered the meat of where the Tour gets its transfusions. In all these years the Tour Championship has played East Lake, Woods has won only once. Another year, he took his leave, and for whatever reason, few knew at the time.
So in his news conference, the matter came in for review.
“In 2006, when you didn’t play here, what kept you away?” he was asked. He said he couldn’t remember. “The year 2006,” it was repeated. “Yeah, I’m sorry.” Then, “I don’t know. You’d have to research that, I’m sorry.”
Well, maybe we can be of help. At first, word was that he needed some rest. Later, though, it came through in print. He had played in the HSBC Championship, a European Tour event in China č for a sizable appearance fee, we learned — and he lost by two strokes to Y.E. Yang, a Korean whose identity was more brilliantly established in the recent PGA Championship. Tiger again was his victim.
Oh, well, to each his own. But could you imagine Roger Federer taking Wimbledon week off for a fat fee? The Tour Championship is like the PGA Tour, where its health is vested in the presence of its stars. This is the sport’s World Series, its Super Bowl, and now its … for lack of a better term … FedEx Cup Championship.
Like it or not.