Do They Not Like Tiger??? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Do They Not Like Tiger???

This may be some unfair reading between the lines, but it seems to me that the EXTREMELY weak field for this week’s “AT&T National” golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in DC is a major slap in the face to tournament host Tiger Woods. Consider this: Two weeks before a major tournament, in this case the British Open, is usually when a huge number of players like to play their final tune-up event. It lets them get sharp while giving them a week of rest in between. This would especially seem to be important when the major requires an overseas trip, as The Open Championship does. Meanwhile, Congressional is one of the greatest courses in the country, a true delight to play. I had the good fortune of playing it about six weeks ago, and it was in superb shape. And it’s just an absolute joy, tough but fair. Finally, this is the Fourth of July week, in the nation’s capital. What could be better? Finish a round on Friday and then, from almost anywhere nearby, find a good vantage point to watch the nation’s best fireworks spectacular. ALL those reasons argue in FAVOR of playing in the event. Plus you have the added benefit of the tournament’s “prestige” factor just by virtue of being at Congressional AND being hosted by Tiger, but WITHOUT needing to beat Tiger himself, sidelined with knee and leg injuries. What could be better?

Yet from the world rankings, only two of the top 10, 5 of the top 20, and 7 of the top 30 players are competing at Congressional this week. Of the top 10, the only competitors are the ones who finished first and second here last year: seventh ranked Steve Stricker and 10th ranked K.J. Choi (both of whom are now in months-long slumps), which of course gives them personal reasons for wanting to come back. But this is a tournament without Mickelson, or Els, or Garcia, or Singh, or Goosen, or Aussies Ogilvy and Scott. No Stewart Cink either, nor Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington, nor the spring/summer’s hottest player, Kenny Perry. Englishmen Lee Westwood and Luke Donald aren’t here; neither is Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. Hot Americans Justin Leonard and Boo Weekley are skipping it, too, as is 2007 Masters champ Zach Johnson.

One would think that, out of respect for Tiger at least, not to mention respect for the course, more of these players would be here — ESPECIALLY when they know that the tournament will suffer fram the lack of its injured headliner from its field. If Tiger can’t play, one would think other players would want to pick up the slack. But only the over-40 set seems to think this is important. Fred Couples is here. So is Davis Love III. So is Rocco Mediate, who played so valiantly at the U.S. Open before falling to Tiger’s heroics. Steve Elkington, Jeff Maggert, Jesper Parnevik, Corey Pavin: They’re all playing this week. So is local favorite Fred Funk, over age 50.

To be clear, I don’t think the players who are NOT here are subtly-but-deliberately saying they don’t like Tiger. But their absence DOES say that Tiger’s association with the event certainly doesn’t lead them to put any extra weight it. In other words, even if they like Tiger or respect him, their fondness for him (if there is any) or admiration for him is certainly not strong enough for them to make a special effort to make his event a success. This is passing strange. Especially considering, again, that Congressional is such a great course.

I’ll say this: In the first few years of Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament in the 1970s, NOBODY deigned to miss it. Jack was not only respected, but, by then, loved by most of his competitors. Every time a young player came along, Jack would go out of his way to welcome him, encourage him and, if they were serious challengers to his supremacy, to befriend them as well. He reached out to Ben Crenshaw that way, and to Jerry Pate, and to Tom Watson, and Greg Norman. Does Tiger do that? Perhaps, but if so, it certainly is below the radar.

Tiger Woods is the most dominant athlete, in any sport, since perhaps Babe Ruth. His feats are truly astonishing — and, as he showed at the U.S. Open, so is his competitive heart and courage. And he does great work with his educational foundation, showing that his heart is in the right place as well. But something isn’t right when his own tournament, in just its second year, does not attract nine of the 11 players immediately beneath him in the world rankings. It’s just bizarre.

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