by Tom Weppel
This month the PGA Tour makes it annual stop here in Northeast Florida. The Players Championship (TPC) cranks up in Ponte Vedra on May 6th-9th. It is played on the Stadium Course, only a few hundred yards away from the PGA Tour headquarters in Sawgrass.
This event has grown each year in many ways, to the point where it is generally considered to be the ‘Fifth’ Major. That’s what the PGA Tour wanted to happen, especially after moving the tournament from March to May.
All the VIP’s (very important players!) will be here to participate, including one Eldrick Woods, a/k/a Tiger. His participation is sure to generate an extensive amount of interest, discussion, and excitement. In the past, he did that because of his stature, prowess, and dominance on the Tour. He had arguably become the #1 sports personality in America…and certainly the top player in golf.
NOW, he is drawing interest because of his personal exploits OFF the course, including the messing around he has done outside his marriage. All of the media coverage has easily gotten people talking even that much more, wondering what Tiger Woods is going to do next. His reputation has certainly taken a hit, although everyone has a different stance and opinion on the situation.
At the Masters, the first golf tournament Tiger entered in this year, he played surprisingly well, all things considered. He was in contention on Sunday, with a shot at winning, which was in itself an accomplishment. When it was over, many people were still talking about Tiger’s play, even though Phil Mickelson had won the tournament for the third time.
And that will be the case at The Players. While every professional in the top 50 will be playing, including Mickelson, the focus and attention will most likely be centered upon Tiger Woods. Fans will follow him during his round, just to see if he will continue playing at the high level he has previously.
Fans will certainly cheer Tiger Woods for making good shots. But while a number of people now have a negative attitude and/or opinion of him, you will not hear anyone booing him or holding signs chastising him. That is in contrast to other athletes who have received negative reactions after doing something bad off the playing field. One example would be with Kobe Bryant a few years ago playing with the Lakers.
The PGA Tour has done their best to handle this situation. Their goal is simply to get as many people as possible to enjoy the sport, tune in and watch on TV, and become entertained by what they’re seeing. Every year, that seems to continue in growth at The Players Championship. The course is always talked about, both in positive and negative terms. The galleries are always strong. Television coverage continues to grow, and will do so even more this year.
And so we will all watch and see how this years’ tournament plays out. I can guarantee you the better Tiger Woods plays, the more people will be interested, and the more media attention we’ll see in covering this event in Ponte Vedra.