Welcome to the new normal.
It’s a strange world where red shirts and conventional wisdom no longer hold sway the way they once did. A land that no longer yields to Tiger Woods’ will by way of clutch putts and on-cue histrionics, and where the status quo is suspect, at best.
Woods’ schedule used to be one of the game’s most guarded yet predictable lineups. Most years, barring injury, he’d start at Torrey Pines, check in at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship before moving on to Doral, Bay Hill and finally the Masters.
The summer months featured similar clockwork: The Players Championship, Quail Hollow, Memorial, et al, not that he ever committed to an event before the deadline. Not that he needed to. If nothing else, Woods was a creature of habit.
For the last few months, however, it seems as if Tiger Inc. is operating under new management.
The year began at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, his first start in the oil-rich Emirate, and on Tuesday Camp Woods revealed he would play the Honda Classic for the first time since his amateur days.
The Honda Classic was a long-rumored natural fit for Woods, a recent Martin County transplant, but to do so would mean playing three consecutive weeks and four events in five weeks, which has been akin to competitive kryptonite for a man who has never played more than 21 events in a single season and no more than 17 in a year since 2007.
“Eighty to 90 percent of his decision (to play the Honda Classic) was tied to Tiger being a resident here,” said Ken Kennerly, the Honda Classic’s executive director. “He almost never plays three in a row. For him to add this event for any other reason than being a local is a stretch.”
The fact that the Honda Classic is played on a golf course (PGA National) that is minutes away from Woods’ new south Florida digs and benefits one of Jack Nicklaus’ charities also likely factors into his decision. Not that Kennerly cares what motivated him to make the drive over from Jupiter Island.
Late last season when Woods added the Frys.com Open, a fall series stop, to his schedule some speculated it was because he wanted to land an endorsement deal from electronics giant John Fry. When he played last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the first time in a decade some thought it was an attempt to appease AT&T, which also sponsors Woods’ AT&T National event in July.
But to tournament directors from Palm Beach Gardens to Pebble Beach the 'why' is not as important as the 'what'.
“I Googled Honda Classic and Tiger Woods this morning and it had over 1 million hits,” Kennerly said. “It’s worth over $1 million, I believe that. Just look at what has already happened with the brand of Honda over the last 24 hours. The exposure has been amazing.”
Kennerly also estimates that Woods’ presence at PGA National in two weeks could mean an additional 20,000 more fans, which would dramatically increase the amount he and his organization can donate to charity.
Even better news for those who have found themselves adrift in the Tiger Woods lottery in recent years, Woods may not be done mixing and matching a schedule that was once as predictable as the four seasons.
“I got what (commissioner Tim Finchem) wanted us to do is to play different events each year, and I did that this year (2011), and I see no reason why I'm not going to do that next year. That's a double negative, isn't it?” Woods laughed when asked about his 2012 schedule late last year.
“How about this, I will play a new event next year. So that's something that I think is good for the Tour. So I'm going to do that for sure.”
Whether that new event is the Honda Classic, which he played in 1993 as an 17-year-old amateur, seems unlikely, which would set the stage for even more schedule deviations.
Whether his motivations for adding events is driven by business or competitive concerns doesn’t really seem to matter, at least not to those who benefit from his appearance.
“This is Tiger really showing the community some love,” Kennerly said.
Basically, this is Woods trying something different. Basically this is the new normal.