Raiders lose, Cowboys win and, oh, the PGA Tour opened its season in wine country

October 12, 2014

Golf is a tough sell this time of year, when golfers prefer watching football. Even the pitiable Raiders. Tiger Woods was in Oakland on Sunday to watch them extend their losing streak to 11 games and 11 months, or only two months fewer than his own winless skein.


(Getty Images photo)

"@TigerWoods Chargers!!" Pat Perez, a San Diego native, Tweeted, needling Woods.

"Critics… Romo took a beating and was CLUTCH #boys," Jordan Spieth, a diehard Dallas Cowboys' fan, posted on Twitter in the wake of their victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

So it goes on a Sunday in golf's offseason. Except that this isn't its offseason. That was last week.

The PGA Tour, in fact, played its season-opener a reasonably short jaunt north from Tiger's perch in Coliseum. Was anyone paying attention?

"It's hard to wrap your head around that it's already a new year and Santa hasn't come yet," Stuart Appleby said.

The Open leaderboard wasn't compelling enough to change channels, even for a peek during a commercial break. Sang-Moon Bae, who hadn't had a top 10 since he won the HP Byron Nelson Championship in May of 2013, opened a six-stroke lead then hung to win by two over Steven Bowditch on Sunday.

But the tournament has potential now that it has relocated to the Silverado Resort and Spa in the midst of the Napa Valley, one of the great wine regions in the world. As inducements to play so early in the season (or late in the year, depending one one's perspective), that is an especially strong one.

"This is so tempting," Appleby said. "Wine everywhere."

Yet most of the best players still chose to forgo it, coming as it did two weeks after a Ryder Cup played in the wake of a busy FedEx Cup schedule. Woods and Rory McIlroy were expected to play, but Tiger bowed out from injury and McIlroy understandably pleaded fatigue from hoisting weighty trophies and important cups.

But each is expected to play in 2015, which would goose the prestige to a more appropriate level for a tournament in this setting on this course with this history.

The PGA Tour played at Silverado from 1968 through 1980, beginning with the Kaiser International and ending with the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic (a beer sponsor in wine country?). Its winners include Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller (twice), Billy Casper, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw. That qualifies as a pantheon.

The course is an old-style one — lined by trees and no tricks — favored by many in the professional ranks. "This is such a pretty place," Hunter Mahan, one of the few Ryder Cup players to play in the event, said.

The cabernet isn't bad, either.