The definition of bedlam is what happened in the tournament office when Tiger Woods announced on Wednesday that he “hopes to play” in the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif., next month.
“It’s been crazy,” Jeff Sanders, executive director of the tournament, said. “It’s been an unbelievable 24 hours. It was off the charts. Johnny Miller was on the Golf Channel, our host, and I saw Johnny and thought, ‘wow, is this really happening? We must have had 100 different media outlets contact us.”
A phone call to David Babcock, the tournament director, on Wednesday went to voicemail and this response: “The mailbox is full and cannot accept any messages.”
This is the first year that Lagardere Sports has run the event previously known as the Frys.com Open, preventing Sanders from offering an estimate on the number of additional tickets it might sell based on Woods’ announcement. “It’s our first year, so we don’t have a benchmark,” he said, though suggesting Woods probably would be responsible for a “30 to 40 percent increase.”
And maybe more. The Frys.com Open did have a benchmark, and when Woods was expected to play in Napa last year, tournament director Duke Butler said, “We could easily double last year’s attendance. We’re looking at having 75,000 or more.”
Woods, at the time, had played three of the previous four weeks before shutting it down after the Wyndham Championship. He has not played since, which only serves to heighten interest in this his return to competitive golf.
“The way it’s been going in the first 24 hours, who knows?” Sanders said. “People really want to see Tiger play.”
Sanders said he does not have a concern that Woods might elect not play, as he did last year.
“I don’t, because Tiger’s committed four weeks before the tournament,” he said. “My gut feeling is that he’s put a lot of time into this, 13 months since he last played. I don’t really fear that at all. I know he wants to play.
“And we’ve got a perfect place, Napa, during the October [grape] crush and the weather’s always gorgeous that week. It’s going to be wild, crazy, exciting, fun.”