If Jack Nicklaus is right, if Tiger Woods is planning to play the Masters with a return to a tournament before the year’s first major championship, the PGA Tour could be on the verge of a media blitz unlike anything tournament golf’s ever seen.
“It would be in everyone’s interest to minimize the return of Tiger Woods because it’s important to the PGA Tour to have consistency and stability and not depend on one individual too much, but the reality is that when Tiger Woods returns it will be the focus of intergalactic attention over an unlimited period of time,” said Rick Horrow, CNN sports business analyst. “Whatever tournament is bestowed the historic honor of his return will set records for attendance, viewership, economic impact, media credential requests and every other measurement.”
While it’s unlikely Woods will commit on Friday to next week's WGC-CA Championship, tournament executive director Eddie Carbone is prepared. So is Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament director Scott Wellington, who would be the odds-on-favorite to host a pre-Masters return for Woods. The Arnold Palmer Invitational is two weeks after the CA Championship.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate over the years I’ve been here to have ridiculously strong fields and all the best players, so we’ve had to contemplate all the scenarios and what ifs in the past,” Carbone said. “There was hope Tiger might return earlier this year, so we have already contemplated all the various possibilities.”
Wellington said Arnold Palmer Invitational officials have received no information that Woods is planning to play there this year, but he’s ready should Woods commit.
“We are gearing up like we normally do,” Wellington said. “He’s been here a number of years, and we gear up accordingly. This year being a unique situation, we have preliminary plans and a Plan B scenario that would affect certain areas of our operation, security and media being two that come to mind, and some other things we would have to do above and beyond what we normally do.”