The silly season isn’t what it used to be, what with the Skins Game having been put out of our misery, K.J. Choi defeating Stephen Ames its death knell.
The Hero World Challenge now is the showcase event of what has become an abbreviated off-season, and though it isn’t a major championship, or a minor one, or even an important one, notwithstanding the World Ranking points inexplicably awarded in an 18-man field, it’s tough to ignore.
The host alone tends to guarantee some news value, as does the quality of the small field. This is Tiger Woods’ tournament, played for the benefit of both his foundation and the winner. The latter was Bubba Watson, who received $1 million from a tournament he did not intend to play. Good stuff.
Woods, meanwhile, dominated headlines, for his candid assessment of his future in both his pre-tournament news conference and a comprehensive interview for Time magazine.
In his dotage, Woods has become a more gracious host than in his prime, when he won his own event five times and finish second five times.
Woods has not been a factor in the last two, however. He did not play this year and tied for 17th a year ago. Yet the entertainment value did not drop appreciably. Last year, Jordan Spieth followed a victory in the Australian Open with by winning Tiger’s event by 10 strokes, the impetus for the year that followed, one of the finest in PGA Tour history that has him closing the year No. 1 in the World Ranking.
Spieth finished fourth this time around. “There’s no disappointment,” he said. “I said to Michael [Greller, his caddie] when we were through 11 holes that we’re 46-under in this event the last two years. No matter where you finish it’s good golf. Hats off to Bubba.”
Watson was 25-under par on Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas, and he won by three, a friendly year-end reminder that the game is not the exclusive property of the 20-somethings who commandeered it in 2015.
“There are so many easy holes out here,” Spieth said. “Five par 5s, reachable par 4s, and for a guy guy like Bubba, if he’s driving the ball well, it’s a pitch and putt.”
Watson, incidentally, initially declined an invitation, uncertain as he was that he could get daughter Dakota a passport in time. When Jason Day bowed out, Watson reconsidered, the passport came through, and he banked a million dollars.
Easy money, as they say. Same time next year?