Friday, March 12, 2010

When will Tiger return?

Earlier this week, "sources" said Tiger Woods would play at the upcoming Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Now, there are "sources" who say Woods will return in April at the Masters in Augusta.

I'm guessing that tomorrow, there will be "sources" who say he's playing at the CA Championship at Doral as Charl Schwartzel
in some elaborate disguise designed by the top Hollywood special effects artist.

But I guess I can see why the speculation is running rampant. After word leaked out that Woods would make his return at Bay Hill, the phones started ringing, and ticket sales went up.

A few weeks ago, I was in Kohler, Wisc., having lunch with the 2010 PGA Championship tournament director Barry Deach, and Woods name inevitably came up.

"We wish him all the best, and we would welcome him with open arms," Deach said.

The PGA Championship isn't until August, and chances are that Woods will be back by then. But who knows?

But even so, Deach said, "The Majors are a little less affected" by Woods' decision to play.

He's right. Non-Majors try to field the best players available to get better television ratings and attendance. And for the past 15 years, Woods has been the biggest draw at those non-Majors, particularly the Bay Hill event, which he hasn't missed since he started playing pro. Actually, he's been the biggest draw in golf, but you get the picture.

The Majors - Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship - have the built-in draw that they are the major tournaments of the golf season.

But I'm guessing that Woods isn't going to base his decision on how it's going to affect a particular golf tournament's bottom line or TV ratings. I would hope his decision is based on equal parts of how it affects him and his family.

If he needs more time to get his house in order, then wait. If things are good at home enough for him to play in a couple of weeks at Bay Hill, then do that. If the Masters is the right one, then wait for April.

And if he really is playing at Doral as Charl Schwartzel, then you heard it here first.

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