Notes Mr Woods Goes To Washington


What an interesting day for golf in the nations capital.
Among other things, Tiger Woods did not rule out politics in his future. The national media got wind of AT&Ts title role in Tigers new tournament on, yes, an AT&T conference call. And PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem didnt dismiss Tigers foundation partnering again with the TOUR somewhere down the road.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods makes his announcement Tuesday. (WireImage)
The focus now is on the new AT&T National Finchem said, choosing his words carefully. But when I asked him about the possibility of future official Tiger tournaments, Finchem said this: If Tiger Woods calls up in a couple of years, we will answer the phone.
The 31-year-old Woods has never been a megalomaniac. He has never grubbed for power. But, increasingly, he doesnt shrink from influence either. But, hey, the guy cant legally run for President until hes 35 anyway. Besides, he said, he has a lot on his plate at the moment.
According to Greg McLaughlin, the president of Woods' foundation and the interim tournament director of the AT&T National, Woods got one-on-one audiences Wednesday with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Jack Nicklaus fingerprints (Bear prints?) will be all over PGA National for next years Honda Classic; even more than they were this year as drama dominated Sundays storylines and 5 under got you in a playoff.
Nicklaus, tournament director Ken Kennerly told me, has already asked for ShotLink data so he can properly determine the best relationship between tee boxes and fairway bunkers to keep the event tough but fair for 2008.
Kennerly also said the Honda Classic is looking to extend the green forward at the 488-yard sixth hole so it is more receptive to second shots. We can also expect a new tee box at the par-3 fifth to make that hole play from 205 to 220 yards.
ShotLink is a proprietary PGA TOUR data system in partnership with IBM that provides a mountain of intricate statistical information. The concept that golf course architects might now begin using it regularly to aid in design details is a fascinating one.
The design arm of the Nicklaus empire has been in charge of architectural updates at PGA National.
Kennerly also said the tournament, which just completed the first year of a six-year contract as the host venue, already is in discussions to extend that agreement. If that happens, dont be surprised if Honda follows suit.
The only consistent complaint heard from the players at PGA National was that the sand was too soft in the bunkers.
And it reminded many players of how Nicklaus, in their minds, ambushed them last year at The Memorial, his annual tournament at Muirfield Village in Ohio. Players arrived only to find that Nicklaus had ordered the institution of gap-toothed rakes that left the bunkers in a furrowed condition that created a much more penal situation for golf balls finding the sand.
A quick check with sources at Muirfield Village this week resulted in this information: Nicklaus and the TOUR are still in contact over whether he will use the same rakes again this year (May 31-June 3) at The Memorial.
A tournament official did tell me, however, that if the same rakes are utilized this time, the players will receive ample advance warning.
NBC-TV and the Honda Classic got stuck between a rock and a hard place Sunday when the tournament ran out of daylight and was forced to postpone its finish until Monday.
One alternative was to push the starting times up for the final round which would have ensured more time for the playoff. The problem with that is, what happens if there is no playoff and the tournament ends at, say, 5:30 when Honda has paid for a 3 to 6 p.m. window?
What happens, past history shows, is that a lot of people switch dials when the event ends and the title sponsor (Honda) gets stuck with commercials few people see.
Another alternative would have been to begin the playoff on a hole other than the long par-5 18th which, with four players in overtime, took agonizingly long to complete.
Maybe, in hindsight, you play the 17th (a par-3) first, a tournament official told me.
The other part of the tough spot the Honda Classic found itself in was a unique one. It was the first PGA TOUR event of the year in the East Coast time zone. And it was the last one before daylight savings time kicks in this week. Theoretically, the PODS Championship wont have the same problem this Sunday because it will have an extra hour of daylight.
Tournament director Gerald Goodman figures it will have been 17 weeks since the final putt dropped in last Octobers Chrysler Championship at Innisbrook and the first tee shot is struck at the same venue this Thursday for the PODS Championship.
Goodman says the last day off his staff received was July 4, 2006. It helps, he says, that he once worked as a football coach. The quick turnaround coupled with the change in title sponsors, he says, make this a tough logistical challenge.
Meanwhile, he said recently, You cant imagine how many things Im trying to get printed that say PODS on them.
Honda Classic winner Mark Wilson now ranks seventh on the PGA TOUR money list and will qualify for his first Masters if he remains in the top 10 for three more weeks.
Wilson benefited greatly from a 90-minute session on the range the Tuesday before Honda with swing instructor Jim Suttie.
Suttie made an adjustment that enabled Wilson to keep the ball lower in the winds that swirl around PGA National. And he reminded Wilson of a putting drill during which Wilson putts at a bottle, not the hole, on the practice green. The idea behind the drill, Suttie told me, is to get the player to stroke the ball more firmly, especially on Bermuda greens.
As for Wilsons future now that he is almost a million dollars richer?
He needed to get that money thing off his tail, Suttie said. I predict he will be like one of the boys now and when he shows up itll be like, How much money am I gonna make this week.