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Who'd You Rather?

Tiger Woods
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Tiger Woods or best of the rest? As a tournament director, would you rather host the top 5 players in the world rankings without Tiger Woods or have Woods without the top 5 players in the world? Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel discuss.


With apologies to the rank and file, everything is better with Tiger Woods, even the slightly tarnished 3.0 version that hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2009 and has slipped outside the top 50 in the world ranking.

Consider that this week’s Open, the winner of the Woods Fall Series lotto, doesn’t have a single player from the world’s top 5, while the European Tour’s Madrid Masters has the top dog himself, world No. 1 Luke Donald.

Just a hunch, but even fans in Madrid would rather watch the Open.

Your avid golf fan will tune in to Fall Series events, low-key stops on the post-Tour Championship calendar. Sports fans, casual golfers, TMZ types and anyone who spent the last two years waiting to see who Woods would vote off the island next will study this week’s happenings from CordeValle.

It is the best, and worst, of the American sports psyche. We eagerly embrace the “statement” victories while secretly keeping an eye out for the next crash.

Electronics giant John Fry, the patriarch of the northern California Tour stop, has repeatedly said he wants to turn the stop into something special. He may want to take a moment this week and savor the experience, because this is as good as golf, at least the non-major championship/cup variety, gets.


I’ll take Tiger Woods and an ecstatic title sponsor and TV partner every time.

If I’m a tournament director, I’ll take his dramatic story, his drawing power and the intensity of interest he brings. No offense to these guys, but I’ll trade No. 1 Luke Donald, No. 2 Lee Westwood, No. 3 Rory McIlroy, No. 4 Steve Stricker and No. 5 Dustin Johnson for Tiger.

If hosting a PGA Tour event were truly about staging the best competition possible, that wouldn’t be the case. I’d take the top 5 players in the world every time, but that’s not what staging tournament golf is really about.

Tournament golf’s a business with a bottom line answering to TV ratings, ticket sales and, yes, charity dollars. Tiger still delivers to that bottom line better than anyone else in the business, better than any other five players combined. As damaged as his brand has become, he still delivers more electricity to an event than any five players combined. Yes, he doesn’t radiate with as much star power as he once did, isn’t as high on Q-rating and likeability scales as he used to be, but he fascinates more than any other player in the game. While I know there’s a good chance I’ll have a great event with the top 5 in the world playing, I’m betting I’ll have a better bottom line with Woods playing.

And, most importantly, if Woods finally finds his form and mounts a weekend run, I'm betting my tournament is more than the best golf story this weekend. I'm betting it's one of the top sports stories. Tiger gives me a better chance of sharing a stage with the NFL and Major League Baseball than any other player.


My apologies, dear readers. You’ll have to excuse my two colleagues, who are apparently still partying like it’s 1999.

Yes, Tiger Woods is still the biggest drawing card in the game. And yes, he’ll bring non-golfers to galleries and more eyeballs to television sets when he’s competing in a tournament.

That’s not what we’re arguing here, though.

While the so-called Tiger Era may not be over, it’s certainly taking a lengthy intermission as other players have stepped up to fill the void left by Woods’ competitive absence – 50 of 'em, according to the Official World Golf Ranking, who are now ranked ahead of the 14-time major champion.

Call me naïve, but if I’m a tournament director, I’d rather have the competitive balance of a field that includes the world’s top 5 players over Tiger and a bunch of B-listers. Right now, that would mean Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson would all be in the mix, ensuring more ranking points and greater chance of having an elite champion.

And if we want to talk solely about drawing power, it’s true that no individual player can contend with Woods, but McIlroy is giving Phil Mickelson a run as the second-most popular worldwide, Johnson boasts plenty of appeal and all Donald has done is ascend to the No. 1-ranking spot in the world – and stayed there.

What it comes down to is this: Would you rather have one 10-foot putt or five chances from 15 feet away? If I’m a tourney director, I take the latter and spread the wealth.