Frys.com Open Stands To Benefit From Tiger Woods Commitment
Tiger Woods made a "surprise announcement Monday that he will play" in the PGA Tour Frys.com Open in October, and as a result the "relatively unknown tourney is about to experience what is known in the golf world as The Tiger Effect," according to Mark Emmons of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Frys.com Open Tournament Dir Ian Knight, whose event is part of the Tour's Fall Series, said yesterday that "phones already were ringing off the hook as golf fans looked to purchase tickets and offer to serve as volunteers." Knight: "We've got a nice event now. But with Tiger's help, we're hoping to establish this as a premier event for Northern California." He added, "We always had a Plan B ready if we got major player commitments. But Tiger is something else entirely." The Frys.com Open moved from Scottsdale, Ariz., to California last year, closer to the San Jose HQs of its title sponsor. Emmons notes Woods "clearly was looking for a warm-up event" in the U.S. before heading to Australia for the Presidents Cup in November (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/30). Frys.com Open Tournament President Duke Butler said, "It certainly is the biggest day in Frys.com Open history. ... Last year our total attendance for the week was 25,000. We’ll certainly more than double it for the week. We’ll probably have 75,000" (GOLFWEEK.com, 8/29).
GETTING TO KNOW YOU: In S.F., Ron Kroichick reports the "roots of Monday's unexpected announcement ... stretch back more than 14 months, to the June 2010 day when Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, took a side trip on the eve of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach." Steinberg visited Butler, who gave Woods' agent a "tour of CordeValle and the Institute, the ultra-exclusive course" built by Fry's Electronics CEO John Fry. Butler, who "has known Steinberg for years, introduced him" to Fry and Tournament Chair Kathy Kolder. The tournament officials "didn't make a high-pressure pitch to bring Woods to Northern California, but they planted the seed." Butler said yesterday, "There were no commitments or anything. But Mark understood that Fry's has this vision to host a world-class tournament, and I'm sure he communicated to Tiger that these people are serious." Kroichick notes Butler's "relationship with Woods (and Steinberg) didn't hurt the allure of the Frys.com Open." Butler was a rules official at the L.A. Open in '92, when Woods "made his tour debut as a 16-year-old amateur, and in 2007 helped run Woods' event outside Washington." Butler and Steinberg talked about the Frys.com Open this May at the Players Championship, and "talks gained momentum in July, when it appeared Woods soon would return from his injuries." Then on Aug. 12, soon after Woods missed the cut at the PGA Championship, Steinberg "sent Butler a text message saying he thought Woods would be interested in playing the Frys and suggesting they talk the following week" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/30).
LEGEND OF THE FALL: ESPN.com's Bob Harig noted this is the "first time Woods is adding a tournament he has never played" since '04, aside from his AT&T National. His commitment "comes as a shock to most outsiders, who never envisioned Woods teeing it up in a Fall Series event." Woods typically "does not officially commit to PGA Tour events until the days leading up to the commitment deadline," which is the Friday prior to the tournament, but in this case he has given the Frys.com Open "more than a four-week head start." Butler said, "The best thing about this is we know about it and can prepare" (ESPN.com, 8/29). But GOLFCHANNEL.com's Jason Sobel wrote golf fans should have "expected this announcement." Before picking Woods for the Presidents Cup, U.S. captain Fred Couples "concluded that he wanted Woods to play again prior to the competition." Sobel: "The guess here is that he knew Woods was planning to compete in a Fall Series event and made his claim knowing his wish was going to come true anyway. Political reasons aside, this is a smart move. At the root of the Fall Series, its reason for existing is giving those who didn’t perform well in the regular season final chances to earn money, world ranking points and a trip to the winner’s circle. Woods has struggled with all three this year" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 8/29).
COUPLES PARTY: Golf Channel's John Feinstein said Woods likely would not have committed to play the event if not for Couples' request because the Tour previously "asked all the top players to add an event they hadn't been playing in the past." Feinstein: "What the Tour had in mind was New Orleans, Byron Nelson, or Colonial, an event like that that needed a big name like Tiger to give a little more ‘umph’ to its field. I don’t think the Tour had the fall finish in mind, although I am sure everybody there is very glad to see him playing out there because it will certainly help ratings and everything else” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 8/29).