Golf: Buick loses its luster without tiger
GRAND BLANC, Mich. ó The Buick Open’s golden anniversary at Warwick Hills lost a lot of luster without Tiger Woods, making Jim Furyk the tournament’s top player and John Daly the fan favorite.
Even though Woods was recovering Wednesday from major surgery on his left knee the previous day, his likeness was everywhere and his legacy was a topic of discussion.
Woods’ image is plastered on three sides of Buicks in the parking lot, on pairings sheets and billboards in the Detroit and Flint areas.
Buick Open officials expected Woods to be in the field for the ninth time since 1997.
But the world’s No. 1 player announced last week he would miss the rest of the season after enduring a double-stress fracture in his left leg and a torn knee ligament over 91 holes to win the U.S. Open in a playoff over Rocco Mediate.
“If it was anybody else that I would have lost to, I would have been devastated right now,” Mediate said. “This guy does things that are just not normal by any stretch of the imagination.”
Kenny Perry agreed.
“He beat everybody on one leg,” Perry said.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem also marvels at Woods’ talent and mental toughness.
Finchem, bristles, though at the notion that his absence renders tournaments to being irrelevant.
“It’s just ludicrous,” Finchem said after taking part in a ceremony honoring the Buick Open’s 50th anniversary. “He played 17 events last year and we have 47.”
Finchem acknowledged TV ratings dip without Woods because casual viewers tune out and that likely will be the case this week.
Furyk (No. 12), Justin Leonard (No. 23) and Perry (No. 27) are the only players among the top 30 in the world at the Buick Open and the lackluster field includes nine of the top 50 in the world ranking.
If Woods was playing, few would focus on those facts.
But because Woods makes the Buick Open a regular stop ó in part because of a sponsorship agreement believed to be worth $40 million-plus over five years ó his presence or lack of it has an obvious impact on the gallery and buzz at Warwick Hills.
“Our tour is doing wonderful. It’s fine. Is it the same without Tiger? Of course not,” Mediate said. “If anybody says it is, they are lying.
“He will definitely be missed. But all of a sudden opportunities opened up. There will be two major winners in the next month and a half or two that don’t have to face him.”
Brian Bateman took advantage of Woods missing the Buick Open last year to be with his wife and their baby by winning his first PGA Tour title with a birdie on the final hole for a one-stroke victory over Leonard, Jason Gore and Woody Austin.
“Tiger is the biggest draw we have by far, but the PGA Tour is more than one guy,” Bateman said walking down the first fairway. “Now, other guys are going to get more attention when they deserve it because Tiger is not in the spotlight.”