A Tiger World Tour Sure


The day before I wrote this column, Steve Flesch had the audacity to shoot a nifty 63 and tie Tiger Woods for the lead in the National Car Rental Golf Classic at Walt Disney World Resort.
The guys in the newsroom don't like it when someone such as Flesch, who came into the tournament 20th on the money list, manages to come up to the bar Woods has set. It upsets their new world order. Some of my colleagues even tell me that Ed Fiori never really beat Tiger at Quad Cities in 1996. That must have been some pizza-induced dream of mine, they figure. The Sutton thing? A fluke, like a UFO sighting, they say.
Woods has so changed the pecking order in professional golf, the newsroom boys reason, that he will soon spearhead a top-30-only tour, and everyone else will be pushed down to a minor league of sorts. Who needs 154 players every week?
Here I was, thinking my colleagues had flung out a big ol' hangin' curve for me to belt. But I checked my swing and thought about it. Who's dumb enough to bet against anything Woods sets his mind to accomplishing?
Neither Tiger nor 'his people' (read: International Management Group) have made any noises about breaking off a SuperTour. But it makes economic sense in this ultra-speedy, hype-happy world.
It's Greg Norman's idea, whose time may soon come.
Not that I advocate it, but imagine this: Woods and his representatives lead the formation of a world tour of the top 30 players in the world. The Tour Championship, without borders, 40 weeks per year. Think of the TV.the merchandising.the gate.the TV again. If I were an IMG guy, I'd be breathing into a paper bag right now.
Of course, this fantasy is a version of the real world tour Greg Norman championed in the mid-1990s. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem used his influence to squash that idea, then turned around and sold it to American Express, NEC, EMC and Andersen Consulting as the World Golf Championships.
Norman's timing was off. That, and his karma. He can't be blamed for not being as good as Tiger, or for coming up with the idea when he was at the beginning of the 'mature' stage of his playing career. (Indeed, he probably wouldn't have had the clout before that.)
Woods has none of those impediments. There may be no more influential athlete in sports right now. If Tiger chose to endorse an IMG-spawned idea for a SuperTour, the entire golf community would have to sit up and listen.
How that community might respond is another matter. The PGA Tour couldn't afford to lose Woods, the biggest draw in the universe, to a tour that might appear on Fox, Sky and every other major network in the world. But it can't very well just let him go off and do whatever he wants, can it?
Or is Woods already bigger than the sport?
It wouldn't surprise me to see Finchem sit down with Tiger even before such an idea became common knowledge to try to nip in the bud any growing problems.
Might that result in an PGA Tour-sponsored elite circuit with a limited schedule? Sure. That could benefit everyone. But some mechanism would have to be worked out for graduation from the 'Rest of the World' tour to the SuperTour.
Change is a tough thing, and I must admit, I'm no more comfortable with the elimination of the all-exempt, 154-player-per-week tour than I would be with an elite NFL or Major League Baseball.
But if it could be made into a money-making opportunity - and make no mistake, it definitely can - then the idea of a Tiger Tour is much more grounded in fact than fantasy.