Tuesday, January 23, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 23, 2001

As usual, only thing missing was Tiger

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

When the PGA Tour announced plans to start its season with back-to-back events in Hawaii, the expectation was we’d be seeing more of Tiger Woods.

Let me rephrase that: We’d finally be seeing him on Oahu. Or, so it was widely believed.

Even his agents, IMG, said piggybacking the Mercedes, which he regularly appears in, and the Sony event would make it a "much more appealing" stop for Woods than the single-stop Hawaiian Open had been.

But in the first three years of the Sony Open in Hawaii, sport’s foremost drawing card is 0-for-the Open.

You can see Tiger merchandise. You can hear the pros talk about Tiger at Waialae Country Club, but so far he’s unfortunately been a no-show for the event.

It hasn’t prevented the Sony Open from being successful. It has had its heartwarming episodes — recall the triumph of Paul Azinger a year ago. It has had its records — witness what Brad Faxon did with a 20-under finish Sunday. And it has raised bundles — $700,000 this past week alone — for charity.

But while the event has certainly had its moments, it hasn’t been all that it could be with Tiger. To have Woods play your event, whether you are the Phoenix, Sony or the Western open, is to raise it to a higher level. It is to have a golden seal of validation placed upon it.

It is to open wide the gates, welcome the crowds and pull in substantial television ratings. By himself, Woods can make a good tournament great. Or, at least invite the perception.

For Tiger’s draw extends far beyond the hardcore fans and fringe followers who make up the galleries at most tournaments. Woods’ appeal reaches beyond golf and across age and ethnic lines.

Gosh knows Sony and Waialae have rolled up their sleeves and dug deep into their pockets in trying to make their event more Tiger-attractive. The purses have been hiked — the winner’s check went up $198,000 from last year to $720,000 — and the course improved.

But while that has been enough to get more of the top name players interested than ever before, it still hasn’t gotten the name to attend.

As frustrating as it has been not to have Woods on hand, it has been compounded by lack of a publicly stated reason for his absence. Even under questioning from reporters at the Mercedes each year, Woods has never said why he has chosen not to play this event, only that he wasn’t coming.

Speculation has covered all the bases — and then some. He doesn’t want to play in the wind in back-to-back tournaments. He wants a course that plays longer. He wants a rest after jetting from Asia to Maui. You name it.

The one thing that is for sure is that when Tiger finally does show up, he’ll make a good tournament great.

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