Is Tiger Woods' Return Due To A New Title Sponsor For His PGA Tour Event?
Tiger Woods on Friday announced that he would return from back surgery this week at the PGA Tour Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., which "fundamentally changes the feel of the event in the first year that Quicken Loans replaces AT&T as the title sponsor," according to Barry Svrluga of the WASHINGTON POST. Woods’ reps said that he "would not have entered any tournament, including his own, had he not been cleared by his doctors." Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said, "Is it coincidental? Yes. But I can tell you this: If he hadn’t tested out his back under the conditions that he knows he needs to test it in over the last couple days, and if the back wouldn’t have responded to date the way it has, it wouldn’t have mattered if it was his tournament with a new title sponsor in Quicken Loans." Woods has "missed his own tournament three times" since its '07 inception. Steinberg added that Woods would "not make up a schedule for the rest of the summer until he evaluates how he comes through the tournament at Congressional" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/21). ESPN.com's Bob Harig noted the tournament, on top of having Quicken as a new sponsor, "benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation," which "likely has something to do with Woods' decision to try and play" (ESPN.com, 6/20). In Boston, Ron Borges noted it was "immediately speculated that Woods’ return was inspired by" Quicken's title sponsorship. But if the "real reason is anything but the fact he’s ready to play competitive golf again, it is ... a fool’s errand" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/21).
MISSING IN ACTION: The WASHINGTON POST's Svrluga wrote as "much as this is Woods's event ... he’s not making phone calls and twisting arms to get people to play." Woods last month said, "I haven’t traditionally done that because I know what it feels like to be on that side, where people ask you to play. And I don’t want to put that on the players. My staff will do that for me." Despite his "presence as a host and Congressional as a top-flight venue, Woods’s tournament ... has traditionally had a difficult time drawing a strong field, and encouragement from the 14-time major winner likely wouldn’t matter." Woods, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose "give the event four of the world’s top-10 ranked players, but just five of the top 20 will be here -- and for several reasons." The U.S. Open was two weeks ago, and "many top-flight European players ... travel across the Atlantic immediately afterward." The Irish Open was last week, and the BMW Int'l Open in Germany is "next week, overlapping with the Quicken Loans National." Phil Mickelson "traditionally takes time off after the U.S. Open and reappears the week before the British Open." Woods said, "It’s just playing schedule. Guys need time" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/22).