When Quicken Loans says “Jump,” does Tiger Woods respond, “How high?” My, how things have changed in five short years. Look at the timeline:
November 2009 — Tiger Woods’s sex and PED-dispensing doctor scandals erupt.
December 2009 — AT&T drops their sponsorship deal with Woods. AT&T decides to continue on as the title sponsor of the AT&T National golf tournament played each June in the Washington, DC, area. This event is “hosted” by Woods
June 2012 — Tiger Woods wins the AT&T National.
June 2013 — Tiger Woods, as defending champion, skips the AT&T National, citing an elbow injury.
March 24, 2014 — Quicken Loans replaces AT&T as the title sponsor of the June event held in Washington, DC. AT&T, who had already decided to leave the event and move to the Byron Nelson tournament held each May in Dallas, agreed to leave a year early so Quicken Loans could be this year’s title sponsor.
April 1, 2014 — Woods announces he will undergo surgery and miss the Masters and an unspecified number of other tournaments.
April 23, 2014 — Woods is doing light chipping and putting, according to his agent.
May 19, 2014 — Woods’s status according to the Washington Post: “Here is what Tiger Woods can do: chip some, putt a little, and play first-person shooter video games with opponents from across the Internet, anonymously. […] Here’s what he can’t do: play catch with his kids or swing a golf club.”
June 17, 2014 — Woods’s agent announces Woods “feels better each day and is extending his swing as he progresses.”
June 20, 2014 — Woods announces he will be playing in the Quicken Loans tournament.
Now, let’s examine all this from the point of view of a business executive spending millions of dollars to sponsor a golf tournament.
AT&T got battered by Woods’s sex scandal (and Galea scandal) and dropped their sponsorship of him. They gamely continued on as title sponsor of the DC event hosted by Woods. Woods, the tournament’s host and biggest draw, repays their decency by skipping the event in 2013.
AT&T lets it be known that they are leaving the DC event for the Byron Nelson in Dallas. Quicken Loans steps in to save the day. Eight days after Quicken Loans agrees to sponsor the DC event Woods hosts, he announces he is getting back surgery and will be out for weeks or months. Was Quicken Loans blindsided by this? Would they have signed the title sponsorship deal had they known Woods was going to be out for an extended length of time, potentially beyond their tournament date?
Did Quicken Loans threaten legal action if Woods failed to play next week? We are talking huge amounts of money, and if Woods and Steinberg hid news about Woods’s health from Quicken Loans, Quicken Loans may have been threatening to void the agreement.
Woods has very quickly gone from “light chipping and putting” to “extending his swing” to “let’s tee it up.” Had Woods failed to play next week, it would have meant he missed “his own tournament” two years in a row. This year would have been especially irksome, given that it was on Quicken Loans’ dime because they signed the deal a year early — thereby letting AT&T off the hook — and a mere eight days before Woods announced his surgery.
Quicken Loans is on the line for a lot of money, and they are well aware Tiger Woods’s expiration date is rapidly approaching. Injury could end his career at any time, as could a revelation about PED usage. His image is already in tatters, so another disclosure about his personal life would destroy what’s left of his marketability. (Phil Mickelson — famed inside trader — has already passed Woods as golf’s top endorser.) There is no guarantee Woods will be worth a penny to them next year.
My guess is that Tiger Woods had very little say in the matter of whether or not he was “ready to play” next week.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.