The shortest off-season in sports is the PGA Tour’s two weeks—one, if you throw in the Ryder Cup—and it will end, as it always does, with the 2018-’19 season-opening Safeway Open, in Napa, Calif., the first week in October.
We bring this up now because it has added importance this year. The tournament, hosted by Johnny Miller, has pledged all proceeds from ticket sales to go to fire relief in the Napa Valley area. Recall that last year, the Atlas fire, among others in the region, ravaged parts of the Silverado Resort at which the tournament is held as well as surrounding areas.
The additional philanthropic commitment is as good a reason for some of the tour's bigger names to consider playing in the event—most specifially, Tiger Woods.
It would be understandable if Woods opted not to, but magnanimous if he did. The Safeway Open would follow a likely stretch of five events in a six-week period for Woods, ending with the Ryder Cup concluding on the Sunday before Silverado. That is a lot of golf at the end of a long year for a 42-year-old, who a year ago wasn’t sure he’d ever play again.
On the magnanimous side, the Safeway Open is not among the bigger draws on the PGA Tour, while Tiger is a runaway leader on boosting crowds. Three years ago, the tournament director at the time, Duke Butler, mused that a Tiger appearance could double attendance, to more than 75,000. Rounding down, an increase of 35,000 fans, at $30 per ticket, would deliver an additional $1.05 million for victims of the devastating fires.
Jeff Sanders, the executive director of the Safeway Open, declined to comment on the possibility of a Woods’ commitment to play other than to say in an email, “We would love for Tiger to play in the Safeway Open whenever it works for his schedule! Great to see him healthy & playing so well.”
Woods, meanwhile, has yet to fulfill an obligation to play in the Safeway Open based on his having received a “conflicting event release” from the tour in 2012 to participate in the Turkish Airlines World Golf, an eight-player exhibition event played opposite what was then called the Frys.com Open, the PGA Tour event now sponsored by Safeway.
In turn, Woods, as well as the seven other PGA Tour members—Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood, Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan and Charl Schwartzel—agreed to add the Napa event to their schedules at some point. The seven all fulfilled their obligations in 2014 and ’15.
Woods committed to playing in the 2016 event, which would have marked a return from more than a year away from competitive golf because of back surgery. But he withdrew on Monday of tournament week, citing the state of his game. “My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be,” he said in a statement then.
His health now appears good, and the state of his game is excellent. We reached out to his management team to see if the event might be something he'd consider, but hadn't heard back just yet.
It is Woods’ call, and again, it would be understandable should he not play, given his crowded schedule, but magnanimous—and magical—if he did.