Citizen Staff Writer
WGC-ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP (three full pages, 2C, 9-10C)
It’s more than four miles from the nearest intersection all the way up to the new Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain. Just wondering: Where exactly do you get a red carpet that long?
Perhaps the PGA Tour, the Golf Channel, NBC, Accenture, Tucson, Marana and Pima County can all chip in.
Tiger Woods’ return to golf is that big, that Hollywood-esque.
With these words Thursday on his Web site – “I’m now ready to play again” – Tiger turned next week’s World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship from a good golf story to the No. 1 topic in all of sports, no matter where you span the globe.
Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times writes, “This could be the biggest thing to hit Arizona since the taco.”
A tourney just isn’t a tourney unless Tiger makes the journey.
He’s golf’s one-man stimulus plan.
The Golf Channel, which has coverage of the event Wednesday through Friday, quickly and breathlessly touted Tiger on ads amid soaring, inspirational music.
“Watch his triumphant return,” the announcer says.
Coverage begins Wednesday at noon.
Here’s a guess: Tiger’s tee time, as yet unannounced, will be about 12:05 p.m.
Woods hasn’t played competitively since last June’s U.S. Open, when he hobbled around Torrey Pines and defeated lovable underdog Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff. Woods, playing against doctors’ advice, limped to the finish on an ailing left leg. He had two stress fractures in his left tibia, and he underwent surgery eight days later to reconstruct his left knee.
He said in a media teleconference Friday that it’s been “years” since he’s been able to attack a golf ball without feeling pain.
Is there any doubt the post-surgery Tiger is going to be better than the pre-surgery Tiger?
That doesn’t mean he will stay around all week at the new Jack Nicklaus-designed Ritz-Carlton course at Dove Mountain in Marana. Woods, at full health and without rust, has lost in the first round of this capricious format before, in 2002 to Peter O’Malley.
“Getting out there and competing again and feeling the adrenaline and feeling the rush of competing . . . I haven’t done that in a while,” Woods said. “Hopefully, I can get into the flow of the round very quickly.
“I don’t know how this thing’s going to behave in a competitive environment and how the recovery is going to be day-to-day. That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to testing.”
Even if it’s for a day – and more likely for at least a few – Tiger’s return is what golf needs.
When Tiger plays, we watch.
When Tiger sits, we don’t.
Phil Mickelson was asked at a news conference at last year’s PGA Championship if there is a noticeable difference to a major tournament when Tiger is not in the field.
“Well, I noticed it when I walked in; there’s a lot of empty seats,” Mickelson said about the press tent. “Usually when he’s in the event, that doesn’t happen.”
The other golfers might get weary of Woods winning – he’s won nine of his past 12 tournaments, dating to August 2007 – answering questions about him, and otherwise being dwarfed by him.
Deal with it. Tiger makes them all money with better Tour sponsorships and ratings and purses.
Television ratings sunk like a Titleist in a lake after Woods’ surgery. The final round of the British Open dropped 11 percent over the previous year. The PGA Championship was off 55 percent.
Hardly anyone cared about the FedEx Cup events. Ratings for those four late-season tournaments slipped by 50 percent.
NBC’s weekend coverage of last year’s Match Play tournament was up 42.9 percent as Tiger took home the trophy. The previous year, Henrik Stenson – excellent, not exciting – was the champ.
You can’t make too much of Tiger at an event.
Get that red carpet ready.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: