Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Playoffs Hurting Other Events?

I love editorializing my headlines. It is true, though, if you think about it from the perspective of Tiger Woods' scheduling. Jack Vickers shut down the International when he realized that Tiger Woods was never coming back there (and that the Tour wasn't going to let him have his own $10 million event). Other tournament directors speak of the Tiger Tour and the impact it has on their event's viability if he does not enter.

Doug Ferguson decided it was an opportune time to take a look at Tiger's schedule in light of going for his 5th title at Bay Hill this week. It's not that you don't know this stuff, but it is worth repeating sometimes.

Woods will be going for his fifth title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He opened his 2008 season by winning the Buick Invitational for the sixth time. He also has six victories in the Bridgestone Invitational, six more at the World Golf Championship that now goes by the name CA Championship.

He has four green jackets from the Masters, four Wanamaker Trophies from the PGA Championship.

Woods, perhaps more than any other golfer, is a creature of habit.

He has won 63 times in his PGA Tour career, yet he has trophies from only 24 tournaments. Vijay Singh has a far more diverse record, winning 31 times at 23 different tour events.


Consider another statistic that illustrates how his schedule works in his favor. Woods has won 52 times at the 17 tournaments tentatively on his 2008 schedule (that doesn’t include two victories at Doral, which has been merged into a WGC).
But, don't think for a second that this is unique to Tiger Woods. Tiger has modeled his playing schedule after Jack Nicklaus - the man he idolizes next to his father. So, it would seem that Jack would have played a similar, limited schedule, right? He did.
It would be easy to suggest he only plays the courses on which he has had success, but that’s true for everybody. Jack Nicklaus won 73 times in his PGA Tour career at 37 different tournaments, although the schedule looked much different in the 1960s, before Nicklaus and Palmer led a revolt that created the PGA Tour.
The rest of the piece provides a couple of anecdotes for how tournaments compete for Woods' precious open dates - about 2 per year it seems. Ferguson correctly notes that Woods has slowly dropped events from his schedule, including Riviera, Disney, the Nelson, Pebble Beach, and Kapalua. What is the motivation, though, for the more recent drops of Nelson, Disney, and Riviera? One tournament director takes a shot at it:
Kym Hougham of the Wachovia Championship said, “It’s a dwindling opportunity because of the majors, the WGCs, and now the playoffs,” Hougham said. “It’s like in college, when you have requirements and electives. We’re the electives. And there are lot more requirements now.”

The four majors, three WGCs, three playoff events and The Players Championship take up 11 spots on Woods’ schedule. There has been only two additions to his schedule since 2002—Wachovia and the AT&T National, his own tournament.

Therefore, the only conclusion one can really draw is that Woods is doing two things. (1) He is dropping a few events from his schedule to focus on majors and be a dad, too. (2) He is cutting out room on his schedule to play in the Playoff events, in lieu of playing in other events. (3) He has to play in his own event.

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