SAN FRANCISCO – Tiger Woods sure could use a break from golf.
He played eight times in the last 11 weeks, his busiest stretch in nine years, and achieved more than some players do in a career. Woods won three times, was runner-up in three other tournaments and capped it off by winning all five of his matches at the Presidents Cup.
And after all that? He goes back to work in three weeks.
Such is the never-ending season of golf, which has a sanctioned tournament every week until five days before Christmas.
Two weeks later, another season begins.
Next up for Woods is a World Golf Championship in Shanghai, where he will be joined by the likes of Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia. That is followed by the Australian Masters and a $3 million appearance fee. Woods calls it a year with the Chevron World Challenge, a silly-season event only in name because it now awards official world-ranking points.
“I think that it’s certainly one of the longer stretches I’ve had,” Woods said Sunday at Harding Park. “The only other stretch this long was back in 2000 at the end of the season – or end of the year.”
That stretch was daunting, indeed.
Woods played eight times in eight weeks, a schedule that began in Virginia with the Presidents Cup, took him south for Disney and the Tour Championship, then to Spain for the final PGA Tour event and over to Bangkok for the Johnnie Walker Championship. He stopped in Hawaii on the way home for the PGA Grand Slam, then hosted his tournament in California before going to Argentina for the World Cup.
Still, it’s worth paying attention to the words Woods chose and how he corrected himself.
Golf no longer is measured by the season, rather the year. Golf really doesn’t end until it’s ready to start. The only time the world is without an official golf tournament is the last weekend of December and the first weekend of January.
When do these guys ever get a vacation?
Whenever they want.
Camilo Villegas simply was expressing a popular sentiment on Twitter a few weeks ago when he wrote, “I still dont get it, every sport has an offseason but i guess we dont.”
He knows as well as anyone that the season is only as long as a player wants it to be. Villegas wants to be a global player, which is why he’ll be getting his passport stamped in Spain, China, New Zealand and Dubai over the next six weeks.
Good for him.
Steve Stricker? He once took off so much time in the fall that when he arrived at the Tour Championship, Woods asked him why he came out of retirement. Stricker was probably in a deer stand Tuesday and might not come down until Thanksgiving.
Good for him, too.
Such is the benefit of being an “independent contractor.” Make your own schedule. Create your own financial opportunity. And considering the economic climate, be thankful you can continue to play tournaments wherever and whenever.
There is still value in winning the FedEx Cup or the PGA Tour money title (Woods won both), or the Race to Dubai in Europe or the Order of Merit in Asia, Japan, South Africa and Australia. That’s not likely to change.
But as the Asian market matures, it would not be surprising to see more players competing year-round.
The PGA Tour has its fingers in only one tournament at the moment, converting the HSBC Champions – Asia’s major – into a World Golf Championship. Perhaps it won’t be long before the U.S. tour creates another tournament in Asia, with or without help.
Global travel is nothing new. A generation ago, top players would spend the early part of the season overseas taking appearance money, and some of them didn’t think the PGA Tour started until the Florida swing.
Now, the time to travel is the fall.
Nick Watney is going to China twice, for the World Golf Championship and the World Cup. Ogilvy is playing Shanghai and Singapore, along with three weeks in Australia, concluding with the Australian PGA on Dec. 13.
Masters champion Angel Cabrera is playing the PGA Grand Slam next week in Bermuda, which ends on a Wednesday. Then, he’s boarding a private jet to Spain for a European Tour event that starts Thursday. He likely will end his season Dec. 20 at the South African Open.
When does a player take his break?
Jim Furyk last year played the PGA Grand Slam, then only teed it up in one tournament (Chevron World Challenge) over the next four months until starting his season at Pebble Beach.
Woods takes his breaks in pockets. After his charity event the first week of December, he probably won’t show up again until Torrey Pines, the last week in January. That’s his vacation. And remember, he has only played 18 times so far this year. That comes out to $152,292 for every official round of golf, including the five rounds for free at the Presidents Cup.
Woods was among the loudest proponents of shortening the season when the FedEx Cup was created. One can only guess he was referring to the anchor event – the Tour Championship – stretching into November.
Because even after the season is over, Woods is staying awfully busy.