by Jeff Skinner
As the PGA Tour transitions to its new wraparound season there are some things more difficult to explain than a new year starting in October and not January. Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel raises a very valid point in questioning the status of regular season events versus Tiger Woods’ Silly Season tournament.
Tiger’s Northwestern Mutual Challenge stands as the largest most lucrative silly season event. Tiger will host 18 lucky professionals in a no-cut, guaranteed paycheck glorified buddies weekend. Now, I have no problem if sponsors want to throw money at Tiger and his friends but where do they get off earning official world rankings points?
Big names flock to Tiger’s tournament while the regular PGA Tour events, if we can call them that, struggle to attract any top tier talent. “The fields for each of these official PGA Tour events pale are pithy compared with that of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, Woods’ late-year tournament which is equal parts Silly Season event (it hosts an 18-man field with no cut and guaranteed money) and official event (it doles out world ranking points to every competitor).
This year’s entry list for the 15th edition of what is usually referred to simply as “Tiger’s tournament” will read like a who’s who of elite golfers. Woods will compete, of course, as will five others in the current top-10 (Rory McIlroy Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner); six more in the top-20 (Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley, Jason Day and Lee Westwood); and four in the top-30 (Ian Poulter, Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson).
With two players yet to be named to the field, that gives the World Challenge a perfect 16-for-16 in getting top-30 players to commit to the tournament.”
Last week’s Frys.com Open had just one top thirty player, Hideki Matsuyama, Tiger’s already has 16 and the two sponsor’s exemptions are bound to be popular names.
The winner of Tiger’s Buddies Weekend will pocket a cool million. Last week’s winner, Jimmy Walker earned $900,000 in a full field event.
Big paycheck, no cut, top notch treatment, world ranking points with only 17 other guys to compete with? Sounds like a deal too good to pass up. But if Tim Finchem wants to truly make his early season events relevant he has to do something about his big guns passing on the Frys, The Shiners and The McGladrey and cashing the easy checks at Tiger’s event.
Finchem might want to think about twisting a few arms or using his political skills to convince some of Tiger’s buddies to grace some other less popular events.
He’s done it before when he traded a release to some players to play in Turkey during the same week of a PGA Tour event. Those players agreed to play in one of the three “Fall Series/New Season” events in exchange for the release.
He could use the same plan for those players that are lucky enough to spend a weekend with Tiger. It seems like a fair trade and that would guarantee that 18 of the biggest names in the game would be seen somewhere on the course after the Tour Championship and before Tiger’s buddies weekend.