by Jeff Skinner
What a difference a year makes. Last year at The AT&T National Tiger Woods was the official host and played an important part in the entire weeks festivities. He not only served as host but he went on to win the tournament which at the time was the third win of his six wins in 2009. All this took place before his life changing fender bender on Thanksgiving weekend.
This year at the AT&T Tiger’s name is only listed as the defending champion and there is no official connection to the tournament other than as a player in the select field of 120 players. Any official connection ended when AT&T chose to end their sponsorship of Woods after news of his many “transgressions” came to light. AT&T had been a big sponsor of Woods but removed themselves from the Woods roster which left Tiger’s bank account a little lighter and his golf bag vacant. Since the crash Woods has put his Tiger Woods Foundation logo on his bag and tried to get his level of play back in championship form but has had little success in finding any level of consistency.
This week may be Tiger’s best chance to win so far this season. All of his previous five starts have had major championship fields. The Masters, The US Open, The Players, The Memorial and Quail Hollow all had superb fields of players. The AT&T can’t boast of a field that compares to those tournaments.
Woods and Jim Furyk are the only players from the top ten in the World Golf Rankings in the field. There is no Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker or Ernie Els and all the big name European players have opted out. The field looks more like The John Deere than it does The Players.
If Woods can put four decent rounds together he may be able to contend at a course few PGA players have seen before. The Aronimink Golf Club is hosting the AT&T while Congressional is being refurbished for next year’s US Open. The par 70 course has only two par fives which may put Woods at a disadvantage, Woods has made his living making birdies on par fives.
With Woods returning to his former tournament there has to be a bit of awkwardness in the air. Woods was recruited by AT&T and The PGA Tour thought they had another top tour stop when Woods was brought on as host. In the same mold as Arnie’s Bay Hill Championship and Jack’s Memorial, the AT&T was expected to grow in stature. After all, the best golfer in the world was the host and the Tour was ready to prop up this tournament all it could. What a difference a year makes.
Tiger’s star has lost its luster and with it the AT&T has lost its main attraction. This was supposed to be a premier tournament, with all the top players, hosted by one of the best players in the history of the game. With Tiger’s personal problems affecting his on course play and his image, this tournament is just another week on the tour. Maybe Tiger will contend this week or even pull off a win. Maybe one of the young guns will step up and claim their first PGA title. Or an older veteran will add another win to their career total. Whatever happens it won’t be a major win, it’s not The Players or The Memorial or Bay Hill or even Quail Hollow. It’s another weekly tour stop and the luster of what once could have been grand and special has faded, just like it has for Tiger Woods.