PALM HARBOR — Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents from the Valspar Championship.
Sports writers are not supposed to root for or against anyone, but sometimes we can't help but have our preferences, so I will admit that I never much cared for Tiger Woods. And I felt that way before all his off-course transgressions became public. I can't exactly pinpoint it, but something always just rubbed me the wrong way about him. Maybe it was as simple as he was just too good, too dominant.
Nevertheless, I did respect his incredible talent and remarkable accomplishments.
But I now have a newfound respect for Woods after following him around Innisbrook for the past five days. I watched every one of his shots in Wednesday's pro-am, then every single one of his 275 shots in the tournament. And it's my opinion that no athlete in any sport deals with the frenzied atmosphere that Woods deals with.
Much of the time fans are only just a few steps away from him, often yelling while he's trying to concentrate. And unlike most sports, where fans are drowned out by each other and it's all white noise, Woods plays in a quiet sport where he can hear fans calling out his name and making personal comments.
If you were at Innisbrook over the weekend, you know what I mean. Never have I seen an athlete in the center of such chaos. And Woods not only handles it with grace, he performs under such pressure. You come away astonished by what he deals with and impressed by how he deals with it.
The ratings game
Woods at Valspar wasn't just a big deal in Tampa Bay. It was a big deal everywhere. TV ratings were through the roof. Thursday's first-round ratings were up 200 percent over a year ago.
But this is a much bigger deal: Saturday's ratings were the highest for a third round of a nonmajor in nearly 12 years. It also was the most-watched Valspar round ever. Expect ratings for Sunday's fourth round to smash Saturday's numbers.
NBC will release Sunday's numbers today, and final TV numbers for the entire tournament will come out Tuesday. Expect it to go down as easily the most-watched Valspar ever.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Wow, what an amazing week...people, atmosphere, adrenaline, back nine on Sunday, man I’ve missed this. Getting better. Thank you for all the support!— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) March 12, 2018
Three things that popped into my head
1. It's impossible to predict what Woods' schedule will be next year, so there's no way of knowing if he will return to Valspar. But he played well and had nothing but positive things to say about the course, the fans and the area. So nothing that happened over the weekend suggests he would never play here again.
2. Innisbrook's Copperhead Course once again did itself proud. A winning score of 10 under shows that it is challenging, especially for a strong field.
3. I still wish the Valspar and the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weren't held at the same time, but I'd rather have that than believe the rumors that the PGA Tour might move the Valspar dates and cost the tournament many of the tour's better players, including Tiger.