One man, and the dynamics changed. One man, and a golf tournament not everyone noticed a year ago is receiving star treatment. Tiger Woods arrives, and suddenly the Frys.com Open has arrived.
He needed some game action, as it were, competition. The Frys, opposite pro and college football and the baseball playoffs, needed a boost. Both sides are delighted.
“I’m excited to be here,” said Woods on Wednesday. Here, is CordeValle Golf Club, tucked into the hills off U.S. 101 some 80 miles south of San Francisco, where today the Frys begins. “I’m excited to play.”
The feeling is mutual. The billboards promoting the Frys.com Open show Rocco Mediate, who won it last year, and Tiger Woods, who didn’t even play it last year.
Woods has been healthy and working on his game in Florida since missing the cut at the PGA Championship in early August when he wasn’t ready.
“Hey, I’ve got my strength back,” Woods said. “I’ve got the explosiveness back in my leg. And that’s just from training and having time to heal.”
Love him, dislike him — and since the disclosure of his infidelities, many who loved him now dislike him — it doesn’t matter. He’s a majority of one. He’s the New York Yankees. The Dallas Cowboys. He’s the golfer recognized by people who barely recognize golf.
“He will always have the aura,” said Mediate, almost as famous for losing the playoff to Tiger in the 2008 U.S. Open as Tiger is for winning it on a bad leg. Almost.
A year ago, Frys attendance was maybe 20,000 total for four days. This year the possibility is 60,000 — if Tiger is playing all four days. Not that we would ask him about making the cut. He’s thinking first place.
“A ‘W,’” he said, as he always says.
A few days ago, Woods had a 62 at a tough course named the Medalist. And so much for the idea he’ll never regain the swing or the touch.
“I hadn’t posted a low round in a long time,” Woods said. “That’s something it felt good to do. It was pretty easy, and I left a few out there.
“I’ve been playing 36 and 45 holes a day, trying to get my playing instincts back.”
He hasn’t won since the Australian Open in November 2009. He’s out of the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time since the opening weeks of his rookie year, 1996. He’s been going down, and now it’s time to head up.
“The major overhauls are done,” Woods explained about swing changes under Sean Foley.
Mediate said what others understand. Golf needs Tiger Woods. He gets the billboards. He gets the TV ratings.
Of course, he was named to the Presidents Cup team by captain Fred Couples, whose former caddy Joe LaCava will now be Tiger’s new caddy. “I would pick him for any Cup,” Mediate insisted.
What matters now is Tiger picked the Frys to get his mojo back.
“I’m implementing a new golf swing,” said Woods, “and in order to do that ... I have to hit thousands of balls to where it feels natural.”
For us, it feels natural to have Tiger at the Frys.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.