Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

The Loop

Tiger's star-spangled banner event

July 01, 2009

A finely-crafted short game is Tiger Woods' only nod to anything diminutive. Woods doesn't do small. Hence, when he stepped forward to host a PGA Tour event the results were predictable.

Today, in only its third year of existence, the AT&T National ranks as one of the more important tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule, even if the field does not reflect it.

It begins with the host, a melting pot unto himself -- a Cablinasian, to borrow the word he once created to define his heritage: A mix of caucasian, black, American Indian and Asian. E pluribus unum.

The son of a military man, Woods has put his considerable stature behind a PGA Tour event in the nation's capital, coinciding with the Fourth of July, and prominently tethered to America's armed forces.

"Several wounded warriors will join Woods on the first tee at 11 a.m. (on Wednesday) to watch members of the 101st Airborne Division Parachute Demonstration Team skydive onto the fairway with golf balls for the tournament's ceremonial first shots.

"Maj. Ken Dwyer of the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Staff Sgt. Ramon Padilla of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington will join Woods to officially launch the tournament.

"'Hopefully people come out, not only to watch the players, but also to say thank you to all of the servicemen and women who are coming out here,' Woods said. 'If it wasn't for them, what they are doing overseas, things might be different here.'"

The Tiger Woods Foundation has donated 30,000 tickets to military personnel. The pro-am is named in memory of Earl Woods and pays homage to the military. Congressman John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minoritiy leader, is part of Woods' group for the pro-am.

Woods' foundation is the beneficiary of the tournament and is in the process of building a second Tiger Woods Learning Center, this one in the D.C. area.

The sum is a special week culminating in an important tournament that deserves a better field. Only four of the top-10 ranked players in the world (Woods, Paul Casey, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh) are entered, and only eight of the top 25, 14 of the top 50, and 33 of the top 100.

Woods has helped enrich every PGA Tour player fortunate enough to have come along in the Tiger Era, so out of deference to Woods alone, his tournament merits a stronger field. Toss in a world-class golf course (Congressional Country Club), the military link, Washington, D.C., and the Fourth of July, and it warrants a command performance.

-- John Strege