FILE - Tiger Woods tees off of the 3rd hole during the final round of the PNC Championship golf tournament on Dec. 18, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Woods is returning to competition for the first time without the use of a cart since July, announcing Friday, Feb. 10, 2023, that he will play next week at Riviera in the Genesis Invitational. (AP Photo/Kevin Kolczynski, File)

What should we expect from Tiger Woods at Riviera?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The first full field designated event lived up to its promise, delivering all of the top PGA Tour players and giving out a boatload of cash. An added bonus at the WM Phoenix Open was a leaderboard crowded with top ranked players, fan favourites and Canadians. It would seem that the LIV-inspired changes to the PGA Tour are working. How do you see it?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): You may be right, but I think the Phoenix Open always draws a good field, and a raucous atmosphere, so I think it may be too early to tell.  I can say one thing, personally: I don’t miss any of the defectors to LIV, except for Cam Smith, and to this day I can’t figure out why he bolted.  The rest are outta sight, outta mind for me.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I see it as a complacent business owner who has enjoyed long-term success without competition for a long time. They see the answer as “throw money at it”. As the golden age of a Top 3 ended in the 1970s, then the game enjoyed massive growth in the 1980s. In the 1990s Tiger arrived and the golf business rode him for close to 25 years. Basically, the PGA TOUR has done nothing but enjoy being a beneficiary for over 40 years. Their product is the same, TV broadcasts are the same and their business model is the same. Suddenly, someone opened a new fast-food restaurant right across the street. The problem is this competitor is beginning near the top because they have money. They don’t have to struggle in the normal way of infancy. So, the PGA TOUR can ban any customer who buys from the competition (which they are doing), change the menu/business plan (which they are doing by increasing purses) or decide to share the market which isn’t growing. But wait, is there another way? Yes, expand into countries where golf is not played very much. Develop new TV markets, new spectator markets and new participation markets. It’s a longer, more difficult road but it beats becoming a ghost town because the mine ran out of gold.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I would have to agree, it looks like it’s working.  I just don’t like what it’s going to do to the non-elevated events.  Are the sponsors going to pull out (Honda already has!), and will they be able to draw eyes to their events.  It’s sad that the RBC Canadian Open isn’t an elevated event, I hope it isn’t the beginning of the end for a great national championship.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Like most of us, the Tour players are still trying to figure out where all these extra millions suddenly came from. One $20 million tourney does not a solution make. The Phoenix Open is always fun. Half a million people can’t be wrong! Adding a bunch of zeroes helped the field, but as always, it came down to four finishing holes (one especially well-lubricated) designed for great finishes complimenting the exhaustive work and promotion by the Thunderbirds. Let’s see how the other ‘designated’ events play out before we know if this cash dump is working.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Phoenix and Riviera were two good options for starting the designated events. Both have great appeal for different reasons, so it’s likely the Tour will get high marks initially for creating them. But down the line, when they become just one more in a long line of 72-hole events, the Tour may start tweaking them. And that’s to say nothing of potential player defections, especially among Europeans like Jon Rahm, who may be forced to choose between a favourite Spanish event and a designated PGA Tour event. And what about the non-designated events? All of that’s going to take some time to sort out. In figuring out how to give away lots more money, the Tour has also created more headaches for itself.

Tiger Woods has announced that he will play in this week’s Genesis Invitational, his first start in a PGA Tour event since last year’s Open Championship. Tiger played in the PNC Championship in December with son Charlie but limped badly due to plantar fasciitis. What would be a successful outcome for Tiger at Riviera given his well documented injuries?

Deeks: Making the cut would be an achievement and would keep the Tigermania-mill buzzing about his chances in the majors.  Finishing in the top 10 would be phenomenal. Winning would be other-worldly. I don’t count out any of these outcomes.

Schurman: Replace Immelman with Tiger.

Rule: I don’t think he would play if he didn’t think he was competitive, so he must be healthy enough to walk the course. However, he hasn’t played a competitive round in months and he won’t be expected to compete to win the tourney. I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that a successful week would be making the cut and finishing top 40 or so. But he loves the course, so maybe he’ll surprise us again!

Quinn: Woods making the cut seems like an odd goal — he did make 142 in a row with a different body. But, after watching him grimacing around just a couple of months ago — and he is just two years past wrecking that Genesis courtesy SUV — making the cut at Riviera would be impressive.

Mumford: Walking 72-holes would be a good outcome. As Tiger said before Christmas, he has no trouble hitting all the shots, it’s getting to the ball that’s an issue. If Tiger can walk without pain, then I wouldn’t bet against him. Past comebacks have shown he can shake the rust off quickly, so I’ll predict a Top 20. If he can walk.

At the WM Phoenix Open, both Jason Day and Rickie Fowler got themselves on the first page of the leaderboard, an unusual position for both given their struggles over the past few years. Not so long ago, both players were regular pre-tournament favourites and contenders in majors. If they can win again on the PGA Tour, it would be a popular feel-good story. Does either get a win in 2023?

Deeks: I’m sorry, but I don’t think so.  Much as I like both players, I think of them as very good players from a previous generation… and I consider “generations”, in pro golf, as lasting roughly ten years nowadays.  Both are now in their mid-30s, which doesn’t make them has-beens by any means, but I’m not sure either of them has the same fire and reckless abandon they once did.  I’ll be very happy to see them on leaderboards for a few more years, but I don’t see them in the winner’s circle again… until the Champions Tour.

Schurman: Sure, it’s a good story. Both have had some downs for a while. Both are well-liked but who could win: Day? Ricky is not likely.

Rule: I hope so.  It’s hard to think that Jason Day will win given the injuries he deals with on an on-going basis, but I think Rickie will break through this year.  He’s trending in the right direction, made a huge swing change, and it seems to be working.  He used to be one of the best putters in the game and has struggled in the past few years, so if he can get that sorted, I think he will win this year, and that will be a feel-good story for the Tour.

Quinn: Fowler’s off-course popularity and endorsements have, for the most part, exceeded his on-course performance. The recent swing changes definitely make it appear that he can win again. Day getting all the way back from injuries would be a feel much better story. His popularity on and off the course was based on his genuine personality, not marketing hype. Realistically, more likely Fowler has a chance to win, but it would be cool if Day pulls one out.

Mumford: Apart from all the marketing hype, Rickie Fowler used to possess a very good golf game. I never quite understood why he didn’t win more often. Day on the other hand won often and won big events, sometimes when he was injured or didn’t have his best stuff. While it’s early days on the comeback trail for both, I’d give the edge to Day getting a win in 2023. He seems to have that extra quality that players draw on to close out a win.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *