We know that next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake will be minus some quite key ingredients.
Like people who could no more break Scarlett Johansson’s heart than break par – in other words, the average paying customers. There will be no canyons of hospitality this year, abuzz with day-drinkers and fans of any food that fits on a toothpick. No audience of any kind. The greatest challenge of this year’s Tour Championship will be keeping alive the recent tradition of spectators breaking the bonds of the gallery ropes and trailing the victor on the final hole. I don’t know how they’re going to get 10,000 cardboard cutouts to do that.
Gone with the gallery will be a certain amount of electricity, although considering last year’s lightning strike near No. 16 that brought the third round to a halt, that might be a blessing.
And now, barring a comeback that would strain what is possible even for him, it seems highly unlikely that Tiger Woods will be joining the top 30 FedEx Cup industrialist golfers for their very exclusive party at East Lake. For the second straight year since he loudly reminded the golf world of his place in it by winning the 2018 Tour Championship, Woods does not appear to be passing playoff muster.
With two rounds remaining at the BMW Championship, needing to finish in the top four to have a shot of advancing to Atlanta, Woods is at an ugly 8 over, in a tie for 56th place in Olympia Fields, Ill. He shot 75 Friday, requiring a 35-foot putt for par on 18 for that. There is no cut in this reduced field event, as much as Woods might have appreciated one about now. As long as there is golf to play you can’t declare him officially out.
If it can be said there is any one time better than another for Woods to miss the cut for East Lake, this would be it. At least his absence – normally creating a chill on ticket sales – will not affect attendance next week. Blocking the gate, the coronavirus already has taken care of that detail. It’s better at ruining a good time than any five prom chaperones.
Even if Woods was on property this year, the truth is he’d get the same gallery (zero) as Lanto Griffin. So, there is that small consolation.
As for the television viewing public, right about now it would watch a knitting circle at work, if they kept score. Just give us some kind of competition. Generally, television ratings for golf have been up, even though Woods has not been a factor in any recent event – his last three results: 40th, 37th, 58th. The sport has thrived in a time of scarcity, with or without its bell cow player. Seems there are others to watch and enjoy.
Even though he really needs the tournament time to sharpen neglected competitive chops, Woods doesn’t need to be scraping around East Lake playing like he has been this month. Leave a spot in this cozy field for someone who has played more regularly and more steadily.
Woods came off the course after his first round Thursday, closing with three straight bogeys, in little mood to talk about golf, let alone anything important. Still, it was necessary for someone to ask him about whether he considered not playing as did those in the NBA, WNBA, MLS and MLB in reaction to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
For the record, he said: “I talked to the commissioner and they were on board. Obviously, he released his statement, and all the guys were on board. So, no, obviously there was talk about it because of obviously what happened, but we’re all on board, on the same page.” Not words to be framed for posterity.
His mood did not brighten during Friday’s round. If anything, his body language worsened, devolving into the equivalent of a five-hour sigh.
By the seventh hole, any thought that he might rally for a spot at East Lake had evaporated like spit on a hot rock. This hole summarized the frustrations of someone who just hasn’t put in the rounds this summer to be in the same county as his best. From the fairway bunker (another missed fairway) on the par 4 seventh, he took his second shot wide with little green between him and the pin. His attempt to bump the ball up a ridge failed to reach the green. A chip came up five feet short. A putt finished nearly a full foot short (the kind of tragic stab usually reserved for the death scene in Julius Caesar).
OK, time to move on, nothing to see here. I’m not one of those who enjoys watching athletes who know greatness struggle. There is plenty of struggle in the world. You can see that pretty much any hour of the day on CNN.
There was a price to be paid for Woods playing so little – three times since February – and this is it. Hardly any shock that he appears certain to miss the Tour Championship.
And of all that will be missing and lamented next week at East Lake, a Tiger Woods in this state doesn’t crack the Top 10.
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