Curiosity about the state of Tiger Woods is high
+ LIV Golf heightened the idea of greed, but the PGA Tour is not far behind
Welcome to the most important week of golf in 2023.
The Hero World Challenge with a field of 20 players at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas? Yes. Because Tiger Woods is one of those players.
This is his first playing appearance since withdrawing after making the cut at the Masters in April. Is Tiger Woods still that big of a deal? No doubt about it. One well-known golf website considered him a big enough deal to simply run the quotes from his Tuesday media conference at Albany instead of writing a story about him. When Tiger talks, people listn.
How he fares playing and walking in a 72-hole event for the first time this week could give us an important glimpse into Woods’ future.
Is he going to be fit enough to contend in tournaments again, maybe even in majors? Will he simply be able to play in PGA Tournaments on a semi-regular basis? Will he be more than a ceremonial golfer? And if not, will he even continue to play professional golf?
Maybe we’ll get some answers this week at the Hero. The Official Tiger Watch outlook has been upgraded to optimistic after video showed Woods hitting shots at a junior clinic recently and caddying for his son, Charlie. The news that Woods needed an ankle fusion in the wake of the Masters was not a good sign, but Woods said his ankle is largely pain-free and called that surgery “a success.” However, he added, he is bothered by pain in other areas that are now taking “the brunt of the load” of the force he generates with his golf swing.
The verdict is out on this latest comeback attempt. “I’m just as curious as all of you,” Woods told the media on Tuesday. “I haven’t done this in a while.”
He said the best-case scenario for his 2024 golf schedule would be “maybe a tournament a month,” possibly starting with the Genesis Championship, an event he hosts at Riviera Country Club, and something in March near The Players Championship.
What happens this week may reveal whether those plans are realistic.
It was “Wall Street” movie character Gordon Gekko who said, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”
Greed is on a roll in golf. First, there was LIV Golf, which jacked up first prize to $4 million for a outing-sized field of 48 lucky pros. Then, the latest progression of the Player Impact Program. The PGA Tour just awarded $100 million to 20 top tour players based on a secret formula of celebrity, social media action, internet searches and, I don’t know, a Miss Congeniality prize for all we know.
Rory McIlroy finished first and was handed $15 million. Tiger Woods was second, the first time he didn’t take home the top prize even though he played all of eight tournaments over the last three years.
We all know what this money is. It’s a bribe/bonus so players don’t consider jumping to the more lucrative and far-less competitive LIV Golf circuit.
Tour player Nate Lashley is one of the rank-and-file players on the tour. He finished 96th on the FedEx Cup list this season. He wasn’t happy with the PIP results, which have been tilted toward the biggest names every year.
“There are 150 to 200 PGA Tour members and they just spent $100 million on 20 players,” Lashley said. “Seems a little ridiculous. This is an absolute kick in the face to the rest of the PGA Tour players.”
When Deane Beman was PGA Tour commissioner, he ran the tour with an iron fist but ran it for all the members, including players like Lashley. With bigger-than-ever TV rights fees, streaming rights fees and a new competitor, LIV, the tour under commissioner Jay Monahan has done an about face. Now, the biggest names and richest players are calling the shots and making decisions that benefit them most.
Maybe those PIP payoffs are necessary to keep the stars at home. But other than Woods or McIlroy, there isn’t another player who left the tour for LIV who would be missed and couldn’t be replaced by the next man up.
Fourth on the PIP list was Jordan Spieth, who got a $7.5 million bonus for being Jordan Spieth. He didn’t win in 2023, although he had some high finishes. He made the Ryder Cup team as a captain’s pick. It’s not as if he’s tweeting or Insta-gramming his brains out, either. His payday seems way out of line.
It’s the amount of money involved that bothers Lashley, and how it was decided who got it. The tour won’t release the exact details of the selection process.
Lashley and others are right. This deal smells fishy, at best. And while it was the LIV Golf departees who were painted as greedy when they left the tour, the PGA Tour’s new big-money limited-field events, PIP payouts and Ryder Cup payment rumors is painting the top PGA Tour players as the greedy ones.
The richest players on the PGA Tour got the biggest payoffs. The PIP’s top 10, from McIlroy to Woods to Spieth to Rickie Fowler, need another $5 million like Peyton Manning needs another TV commercial.
Maybe those guys gave their gigantic PIP bonuses to charity. I hope they did.
But I wouldn’t bet on it. That’s not how greed usually works.
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MORE FROM GARY VAN SICKLE
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