The Charles Schwab Challenge, like every PGA Tour event on the docket, would love Tiger Woods to be part of the field.
The impact Woods has on the game is undeniable.
As Brooks Koepka said during the AT&T Byron Nelson earlier this month, “Everybody in my generation grew up watching him. That’s pretty much the whole reason we’re all playing. Everybody that’s probably 30, 32 and younger, that’s all we did was watch him and it was exciting. He’s a hell of a player. I don’t think anybody has ever questioned that.
“The excitement that he brought, the fans, I think that’s the reason the majority of people are golf fans. I would say 99 percent of the people that show up when he’s playing are there to see him.”
Unfortunately for Fort Worth and the Colonial, the “Tiger Woods Effect” isn’t expected to hit town anytime soon. Woods has played at Colonial just once in his career, back in 1997, a couple months before legendary Fort Worth golfer Ben Hogan passed away.
Woods went into the final round one stroke behind leader David Ogrin, but had a disappointing 72 to finish tied for fourth, three strokes behind winner David Frost.
Woods earned $70,400 that week, and hasn’t returned since. It’s unlikely that he’ll play in the tournament again, as he’s more focused on major championships at this stage of his career.
With the Colonial following the PGA Championship, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Woods returning makes sense.
As tournament director Michael Tothe told the Star-Telegram last month, “For me, Tiger is in the rearview mirror. He hasn’t played here in 20-plus years. We’ll be ready if he ever commits, but it’s unlikely.”
Woods has no reason to, nor desire to. He has lifetime membership status on the PGA Tour, which is granted to players with at least 20 wins and a minimum of 15 years on the PGA Tour, so he is exempt from the PGA Tour’s rule requiring players to add new events to their schedule.
For players without lifetime membership and/ or veteran status (at least 45 years old), they must add an event to their schedule they haven’t played in the prior four seasons if they compete in less than 25 tournaments.
That’s why players such as Woods have a fairly defined schedule each season. Every top player wants to compete in the four majors, plus the Players Championship and World Golf Championship (WGC) events.
Then, as with anything else, players prefer certain courses or events that suit their game, or proximity to home.
For Woods, the Charles Schwab Challenge and AT&T Byron Nelson simply don’t make sense to play at this stage in his career.
Each tournament would love to land him, but they don’t have much to sell. Sure, Woods has never won the Colonial, he won the Nelson once in 1997, but those wins aren’t a priority like major championships.
Instead, Colonial is focused more on attracting other golf stars such as Francesco Molinari, the reigning British Open champion who will be making his Colonial debut next week. Rory McIlroy has never played at Colonial, but that could change in the coming years with a new date and Charles Schwab as the title sponsor.
But attracting top players has always been a hurdle every golf tournament that isn’t one of the four majors faces.
Jack Nicklaus didn’t play in the Colonial year after year during his heyday. When Nicklaus won the event in 1982, it was his first trip back since 1975.
Nicklaus feels the fields for the Colonial and Nelson are always solid. He knows the challenges, saying even the tournament he founded -- The Memorial Tournament -- doesn’t draw the same field as the U.S. Open.
“I don’t think you struggle to get a real good field,” Nicklaus said during an appearance at Dallas Athletic Club earlier this month. “You always have good fields.”
Woods would simply bring more star power to the field. But, as each tournament says, they want to put on a great event regardless of the field.
Fans like seeing the sport’s top players, of course, but the Colonial and Nelson understand that the majority of fans are likely coming to the event regardless of who is or isn’t in it.
Of course, Woods is a rarity in how much he’d impact ticket sales and interest, but each tournament focuses on building the best field regardless.
Woods, golf’s Michael Jordan, left the building years ago. Don’t expect him to return. Instead, it’s time to just enjoy the ripple effects from his resurgence on how many more people are interested in and watching golf these days.
“What he’s done for the sport is immeasurable,” Jordan Spieth said at the Nelson. “There is certainly plenty of positives from my point of view of him winning [The Masters]. I thought it was really good for our game going forward, really cool to see and knowing that we’ll potentially have the chance to battle it out in a major with him is a dream come true.”