Saturday, February 24, 2018

Jones: Begging Tiger Woods to play the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor

Please, Tiger. Pleeeeease.

We'll do whatever you want. Anything. You name it.

We'll save you the best parking spot. You can pick the lunch menu. Dinner and breakfast, too. We'll give you a car and let you drive it right up on the greens.

Whatever you want.

Just please play the Valspar Championship.

The PGA Tour tournament at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor has been around since 2000, and it has had a bunch of changes. It has been called the Tampa Bay Classic, the Chrysler, the PODS, the Transitions. It has been held in the fall, then switched to March.

But there has been one constant: Tiger Woods — the greatest golfer of his generation, maybe the greatest golfer ever — has never played it.

Oh, he played in a mixed-team tournament around here in 1996. That doesn't count. We're talking about Tiger in a real PGA event in Tampa Bay. That has never happened.

Doggone it, it's time he comes. Please, Tiger, you can stay at Jeter's house. Or how about a nice hotel on Clearwater Beach? Not just a room. The whole hotel. It's yours.

We need you. The Valspar needs you.

The Valspar has had great players and great champions over the years. Jordan Spieth has won here. Jim Furyk and Luke Donald, too. So have Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen.

Phil Mickelson has played here. So have Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. Big names, for sure. And this has been and will continue to be a solid, respectable stop on the PGA Tour.

The course is gorgeous and challenging, and this year's field could include Spieth, Watson and Johnson. But something is missing. Like it always has been missing.

Let's face it. Never having Tiger has been a blemish on an otherwise beautiful golf tournament. And getting Tiger — even the broken-down, past-his-prime, not-the-Tiger-we-used-to-love-and-hate Tiger — would be the biggest coup in this tournament's history.

This could finally be the year.

In the past, the timing hasn't worked in the tournament's favor, and Tiger hasn't been able to fit it into his schedule. But this year is a bit different. The schedule might actually work in its favor.

Check it out:

Tiger returns to tournament play next week in San Diego as he tries to gear up to play the Masters in April. In the past, the tournament the week after the March Valspar — Arnold Palmer's in Orlando — has thrown a wrench into the hopes of Tiger coming here. Tiger always plays Arnie's tournament and will assuredly play it this year, seeing as how he has won it eight times and this is the first tournament since Palmer's passing in September.

But Tiger's schedule leading up to the Valspar might not be as hectic as in the past, and he might try to get in as much tournament golf as he can to get ready for the Masters.

So here's what local fans need to hope happens: Tiger stays healthy and misses a cut or two over the next few weeks. Then again, he can't play so poorly that he scraps playing and goes back to the practice range to work on his game.

In other words, hope he plays just well enough to get the eye of the Tiger again but not so well that he sees Valspar as unnecessary. A perfect scenario? Missing the cut at the Honda Classic, which is two weeks before the Valspar, meaning he would want to get back on the course the next possible chance he gets.

And that most likely would be … the Valspar. It's still a long shot, but this is the best chance the Valspar has ever had t get him.

If Tiger actually comes, do not underestimate the significance.

We've had big-time events in Tampa Bay. Super Bowls. A Final Four. A World Series. We just had college football's national championship game.

Tiger playing in a PGA tournament in Tampa Bay would rank right up there with any of those events. That's not overselling it.

Think about it. We're talking about one of the most popular, impactful, significant athletes the world has seen. Playing here. In Tampa Bay.

That would be like when Elvis came to the old Bayfront Center. Like the Rolling Stones at old Tampa Stadium. Imagine if Ali had fought here. That's what this would be like.

That's who Tiger is: a superstar who transcends his sport.

Valspar needs him. Just this once. Then he never has to play here again.

Please, Tiger.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.


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