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Come on, Tiger, give our tournament a chance

Associated Press
Tiger Woods, the world’s No. 1 golfer, has gone 8-for-8 on Tampa Bay snubs — though he lives just outside Orlando.

Associated Press Tiger Woods, the world’s No. 1 golfer, has gone 8-for-8 on Tampa Bay snubs — though he lives just outside Orlando.

WINDERMERE — Scratch another excuse from the list. Transportation, it turns out, is not the reason Tiger Woods has declined to play the PODS Championship at Innisbrook this week.

I don't want to reveal the source of this information. I will only say he was wearing a white shirt and a green ball cap and was working the security gate in Woods' Isleworth neighborhood outside Orlando on Sunday. Also, his name tag read Brian. But you'll get no more information out of me about confidential whistle-blowers.

Anyway, I told this source — we'll call him Bryan — I was there to offer Tiger a ride to Palm Harbor in case transportation has kept him out of Tampa Bay tournaments for the past decade. That's when this highly placed source revealed this bombshell:

"He has his own transportation."

Thus, I can only conclude that Woods has intentionally snubbed us. Snubbed us when the tournament was called the Chrysler Championship and was played at the end of October, and snubbing us again now that it is the PODS Championship in March. If you're counting, Woods is 8-for-8 on Tampa Bay snubs.

Normally, we would laugh it off and say, somehow, we'll manage to survive. Except, in this case, survival is kind of on the mind of the people running this tournament.

PODS is pulling out as the title sponsor after this year's event, which means some corporation needs to come along and pony up $6-million or the PGA Tour in Tampa Bay starts looking a little iffy.

So does the world's greatest golfer owe it to Tampa Bay to show up this week and send fans and potential sponsors into a Tiger-spotting frenzy? Nah. Like every other golfer, Woods needs to cater his schedule to his own particular needs. And, in Tiger's case, that means plotting his world domination.

But, and I've said this before, the PGA needs to figure out a way to get its biggest names to expand their horizons when it comes to picking out tournaments.

Prize money has gotten so big and endorsements have grown so lucrative that the PGA Tour has turned into a part-time job for a lot of the elite golfers. And no one takes more weekends off than Woods.

Try this. Google "Tiger Woods" and "skip." You'll get about 350,000 hits.

Woods to skip next week's Nissan Open.

Tiger Woods defends decision to skip FedEx Cup tourney.

Tiger Woods expected to skip Northern Trust L.A. Open.

Report: Woods to skip Riviera.

In other words, we're not the only geeks in Tiger's world. He blows off better-looking golf tournaments than ours every week. The PGA Tour requires players to enter a minimum of 15 tournaments a year. Last season, Tiger played 16. The year before that, he played 15.

When you figure in the four majors, the Players Championship, three World Golf Championship events and four FedEx Cup events, his schedule fills up pretty quickly.

Then he has the charming habit of playing events that carry the name of products he endorses, such as Buick.

Quick thought: Since Tiger is building a house in Palm Beach, maybe PODS could have lured him with storage sheds. I'm not sure how big his driveway is, but I'll bet his Isleworth neighbors would've helped out.

There seems to be little hope that the PGA Tour will be able to strong-arm players into adding additional dates to their schedules, so maybe the commissioner can talk them into varying their play dates.

The LPGA came up with a fine idea along these lines. Players are required to participate in a tournament at least once every four years. That's akin to the NFL rotating schedules among divisions. Or major-league baseball rotating interleague play.

It's not exactly a radical notion. And it's hardly burdensome. Golfers like to think of themselves as independent contractors, but even they have a stake in growing their industry.

It's not a question of making it harder on players. It's a matter of making it easier on fans. Tiger Woods may be the finest golfer in history, and he may be playing the greatest golf of his career right now. Over the past two years, he has won about 50 percent of the tournaments he has entered. He is challenging every record in golf and is bearing down on Jack Nicklaus' hallowed 18 majors.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a chance, one of these days, to see him at work? To see the kind of fervor in the galleries whenever he shows up at a course?

It really wouldn't be that hard for Woods. Skip Orlando to play Palm Beach one year. Or skip Palm Beach to play Tampa Bay. The course is great, the weather is the same, and the drive isn't all that far.

Just 107.2 miles from the gates of Innisbrook to the gates of Isleworth.

I'm sure he could catch a ride from someone.

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com.

Come on, Tiger, give our tournament a chance 03/02/08 [Last modified: Sunday, March 2, 2008 9:09pm]
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