12:00 Noon Update How about this? Woods plays, accepts any cash earnings (it’s unofficial money, anyway), but forfeits all OWGR points? That would seem to pretty much solve every problem.
11:30 am Update Continuing on the topic of the day… Tiger Woods tees off in 1-1/2 hours in this fully-sanctioned PGA event. It has a Strength of Field of 173. The past two unsanctioned Hero World Challenge 18-player events had SOFs of 279.
That is pathetic. Think about it. Almost none of the top players will support Woods by playing his real event, the Tiger Woods/Quicken Loans National. They will however show up for the unsanctioned December OWGR points giveaway. How many top players do you think would show up in December if there were no OWGR points? No easy cash. It basically pays and appearance fee in both cash and OWGR points.
By the way, Rory’s Irish Open this year has an SOF of 310, not too far from doubling this week’s event’s SOF.
A reader alerted me to this ESPN article about Tim Finchem giving Tiger Woods an exemption to play in the 18-player Hero World Challenge in December, even though the rules specifically state OWGR points cannot be awarded to such a small-field event unless all participants are in the OWGR top fifty. Woods is current #266.
To understand just how blatant Finchem’s favoritism, one must understand these tiny-field events are scams even when the top-fifty rule is enforced. Consider last year’s event awarded 191 points to the competitors; that comes to 10.61 points per player. Last year, the highest points average for any player entered was 8.1330 (Stenson). The lowest was 2.9397 (Stricker).
Clearly, the players are risking fewer points than they will, statistically, earn. It’s like playing a lottery where more is paid out than taken in. Thank you very much!
But Finchem’s decision regarding Tiger Woods represents a new low. Tiger Woods’s Average Points is 0.6579. Last place in the no-cut event awards about 2.4 points. This year Woods’s current #266 brings no points to the event, but last place will still award at least two points.
See the problem? Woods could shoot 105 four straight days and yet his Average Points would increase. It would be mathematically impossible for it to fall.
Think about who gets shafted. First off, every player not invited to play is shafted, because the nature of these events makes them a points giveaway. Points are handed out far beyond what is warranted. But, by giving Woods an exemption, Finchem is giving a big “scr– you” to the top fifty player next in line. He’s telling a Brooks Koepka or Brandt Snedeker, “Sorry, but you can’t play in this OWGR Points Bonanza Giveaway even though you are ranked #38 in the world because we are letting in #266.
Now, let’s examine the rationalizations. Ty Votaw (second in command to Finchem), per the ESPN article:
“Given the fact that the Tiger Woods Foundation owns and runs the event, that Tiger hosts the event, that he’s been critical to the success of the Tiger Woods Foundation and he’s won the tournament five times, we felt the request was reasonable,” said Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the PGA Tour. “After consulting with the Official World Golf Ranking people, we approved it.”
First off, this event has survived Tiger’s absence before. When was that… gee, that’s a tough one. Oh, that’s right, the year he was too embarrassed by his sex scandal to show his face in public.
I’ll grant the point that, with the Tiger Woods Foundation running the event, it would be rather awkward for Woods not to be there. Understandable. But there is an easy solution. Don’t award OWGR points. It doesn’t meet the criteria; it’s a no-brainer.
Of course there is a problem with that. How many top players would be willing to give up a week of their December break to play if they weren’t able to grab fistfuls of OWGR points.
Now, Mark Steinberg (Woods’s manager), also per the ESPN article:
“For all the things Tiger means to the Tour and what he means to his own foundation, I would think this was an easy request to accommodate,” Steinberg said. “I don’t think there is one player on the entire Tour who would remotely have an issue with it. And I think it would be detrimental to the event to give up world ranking points. Tiger is appreciative of it, and he’s of the mindset that down the road he won’t need the exemption.
“This is his event, and he and his father (Earl) created this thing. And this is somebody who was the most dominant player of his generation. No player could have any beef with that for what it means to the game of golf. I honestly thought it was the right thing to do.”
Okay, for the past eighteen years, uttering even the mildest criticism regarding Woods resulted in a golf media sh–storm: players learned not to speak ill of him. And many players have rather enjoyed the free and easy OWGR points that put them into the WGC events.
Consider Graeme McDowell. After Woods’s sex scandal broke, his manager expected to see Woods drop out. He advised Graeme to stay in California, so that he might be a last minute addition when Woods scratched. So… Woods withdrew; Graeme got in; Graeme won, rose in OWGR rankings; Graeme got into U.S. Open; Graeme won U.S. Open. I’m a major Graeme McDowell fan, so I’m not slamming him. But facts are facts. It’s very likely that Graeme McDowell owes his U.S. Open win at Pebble Beach to the Tiger Woods December Points Giveaway. Graeme himself has spoken at length about this matter.
So players who get in are obviously not going to complain. Nor will those hoping to get an exemption (from Woods) to play. Nor will those who want to avoid the media sh–storm criticism brings (although I sense this is changing; the young guys are growingly dismissive of Woods).
However, don’t think there isn’t a silent majority among the players who are sick and tired of the special treatment Woods gets. Some have been hoodwinked to believe the “Tiger made us rich” BS, but the truth is starting to come out about that lie as well. Anyway, I have nothing to gain or lose, so I can speak the truth, even if many players are reluctant to do so.
Steinberg needs to understand this is 2015, and “what Tiger means to the Tour” lacks the cachet it had in 2000.
And then we get Steinberg’s trademarked exaggerated certainty. Steinberg recently told us in no uncertain terms there was no way Woods was with Amanda Dufner, yet in 2009, Steinberg told us he knew nothing of Woods’s scores of hookups. When he says, “I don’t think there is one player on the entire Tour who would remotely have an issue with it,” all you can do is laugh.
Now, I must ask: Why is ESPN the only outlet reporting on this? Also, this is a topic ready-made for vigorous debate on golf talk shows like… hmmmmm… Morning Drive, the Pregame Show, Golf Central. Instead, we’ll get Paige and Charlie arguing about whether you should put sunscreen on at the course or at the hotel.
I’ll take a look at Twitter. Surely there is criticism amongst the new-breed, Young Lion golf reporters…