Saturday, November 18, 2017
Golf

Tiger Woods again skips PGA Tour event at Innisbrook

RECOMMENDED READING


With his decision this year to play the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens for the first time, it could be concluded that Tiger Woods has something against Tampa Bay.

Or Innisbrook. Or the traffic on U.S. 19.

Whatever the reason, Woods hasn't played a pro tournament round on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor since 1996. That's when he teamed with Kelli Kuehne to finish in a tie for second at the mixed-team JCPenney Classic.

Remember that? Probably not.

Since the Innisbrook event became a full-field PGA Tour tournament in 2000, Woods has been a no-show at it. Even since it earned a slot in the tour's March Florida swing, Woods has avoided Palm Harbor like the paparazzi.

This year Woods has played at last weekend's Honda Classic and this weekend's World Golf Championships Cadillac Champion­ship at Doral near Miami.

He will play in the two-day Tavistock Cup, an exhibition matching touring professionals from Lake Nona and Isleworth in Orlando, on March 19-20, then go to the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando.

In other words, Woods will play in every pro event he can in Florida except the Innisbrook tournament, now called the Transitions Championship, which begins Thursday.

"That's a lot of golf for anybody,'' said Kevin Krisle, a tournament director involved in the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours for the past 16 years and in his first year as Transitions tournament director.

"Even if you're a young player, it's a lot. So it's really just where we're placed in the schedule. But there is no doubt having Tiger in the field adds another element to it.

"When he shows up somewhere for the first time, there is a different buzz. We've seen that in the past couple of years. Having seen it up close in person, it's really something.''

The tournament draws a nice crowd without Woods. But with Woods in an event, crowds swell, and TV ratings rise.

"Certainly, the first thing you notice is that there's a buzz,'' said NBC golf analyst and Tampa native Gary Koch, who was in Palm Beach Gardens for the Honda Classic. "There's an energy level that he brings. It's just totally different.

"The gallery following him is enormous. It's very easy to find Tiger. Just look for the people. And he has a huge impact on the community.''

•••

Woods was a rookie when he played in the JCPenney Classic at Innisbrook in December 1996. The news was greeted immediately with increased ticket sales and changes in logistics.

Additional parking lots were opened. A then-record crowd of more than 25,000 attended the final round.

Woods was only 20 years old, but his amateur career and brief stint on the PGA Tour already had made him a fan favorite. He had won his first two pro tournaments earlier in the year.

Woods was mobbed after his first round as he tried to get from the 18th green to the clubhouse. After the second round, he was surrounded by security guards to ensure that didn't happen again.

"That was a situation where not many good things can happen," Woods said at the time. "There were pens in my face, magazines clipping my eye, my hat got knocked off. It was just a tough situation.''

Woods and Kuehne tied for second with Missie McGeorge and Joel Edwards. He said after the final round he would return to the tournament in '97.

He didn't.

•••

The tournament has always attracted a respectable field, and as a PGA Tour event, it has some marquee-worthy past champions: Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Mark Calcavecchia, K.J. Choi.

This year Luke Donald, the No. 2-ranked player in the world entering this weekend's play, is entered. So is No. 6 Webb Simpson, No. 7 Jason Day and No. 9 Charl Schwartzel.

Other recognizable players include Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney, defending champion Gary Woodland and former Gator Camilo Villegas.

If that's not enough, follow John Daly and see what kind of trouble he can get into.

The four-year contract of title sponsor Transitions Optical runs out after this year, and it will not renew. Does the company wish Woods would have come to Palm Harbor just once?

"While the draw of Tiger is appealing, it doesn't make or break this tournament,'' chief operating officer Dave Cole said. "We get a great field every year. No matter what, it's a great platform for us.

"Of course it would be nice to have the draw. But it's a great tournament in and of itself.''

And for potential title sponsors who think Woods might show up in the future, don't hold your breath.

"It's just a scheduling issue,'' Koch said.

"You got the two World Golf Championships (events in March). You've got Bay Hill, which he has won several times and it's Arnold's event. And now that he's moved down to Jupiter, it sounds like (the Honda Classic) is going to be a normal stop for him in order to endear himself to the people in the area.

"The chances of him coming to Innisbrook are not very good.''

Comments

Rookie Sung Hyun Park continues to roll at LPGA’s Tour Championship

NAPLES — Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies Friday at the Tour Championship. Park kept right on attacking. Th...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Kevin Sutherland wins Charles Schwab Cup Championship, takes Champions season title

Kevin Sutherland wins Charles Schwab Cup Championship, takes Champions season title

PHOENIX — Kevin Sutherland finally broke through on the Champions Tour, taking the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship — and topping the yearlong competition, too. Sutherland closed with 5-under 66 Sunday for a one-stroke victory over Vijay...
Published: 11/12/17

Paul Goydos leads at Champions Tour’s season finale

PHOENIX — Defending champion Paul Goydos took a one-stroke lead Saturday in the Champions Tour’s season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Goydos, a first-round co-leader, shot 5-under 66 to reach 12-under 130 at Phoenix Country Club. "This golf...
Published: 11/11/17

Trio share first-round lead at Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup

PHOENIX — Defending champion Paul Goydos and major winners Vijay Singh and Lee Janzen shot 7-under 64 Friday to share the first-round lead in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Bernhard Langer, trying to sweep the Champions Tour’s three playoff eve...
Published: 11/10/17

Patrick Cantlay wins Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in playoff

LAS VEGAS — Patrick Cantlay won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on Sunday in a playoff for the first victory in a PGA Tour career mostly derailed by a severe back injury. The former UCLA star, 25, hit from behind a tree and got up-and-down f...
Published: 11/05/17
J.J. Spaun, Beau Hossler tied for lead at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

J.J. Spaun, Beau Hossler tied for lead at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

LAS VEGAS — Beau Hossler and J.J. Spaun shared the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open lead Saturday after another breezy day at TPC Summerlin. Hossler birdied the par-4 15th and 18th holes for his bogey-free 5-under 66, the best round of the day in...
Published: 11/04/17

J.J. Spaun takes second-round lead at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

LAS VEGAS — J.J. Spaun shot 6-under 65 on Friday at breezy TPC Summerlin to take the lead in the suspended second round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Spaun rebounded from bogey on the par-4 third with birdies on the par-4 fourth and pa...
Published: 11/03/17

Kim Meen-Whee leads Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

LAS VEGAS — Kim Meen-Whee birdied two of his final three holes for 6-under 65 and a one-stroke clubhouse lead Friday in the PGA Tour’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The 25-year-old South Korean birdied all three par-5 holes at TPC Summerlin, ...
Updated one month ago
Justin Rose overcomes eight-shot deficit to win HSBC Champions

Justin Rose overcomes eight-shot deficit to win HSBC Champions

SHANGHAI — Justin Rose posed with the trophy from the balcony high above the 18th green at Sheshan International, a moment that didn’t seem possible. He started the final round eight shots behind Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world. "The be...
Updated one month ago

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … oh, just DJ again

SHANGHAI — As part of a promotional stunt for the HSBC Champions this week, Dustin Johnson was among three players wearing superhero capes on a hotel roof, suspended by ropes a few feet in the air against a backdrop of downtown Shanghai."I should hav...
Updated one month ago