Given the storm of uncertainty surrounding Tiger Woods -- his whereabouts, the date of his return and even the impact that his absence will have on the game economically, etc. -- at least one element can be addressed in concrete terms.
As for what fate would befall Woods if he sits out most of 2010 and fails to play the mandated 15 tournaments to retain his PGA Tour status for the following year, the answer is clear.
His penalty? Virtually nothing. .
“Not from a membership or eligibility standpoint,” the tour’s Andy Pazder said. .
By rule, exempt tour members must compete 15 times in a season, barring extensions granted by the tour for medical .reasons. Yet there's not much of a sanction attached if they don't. .
Woods would lose his vote in the balloting for 2010's top-player, comeback-player and rookie-of-the-year honors, which isn't much of a sacrifice, to say the least. .
Those who reach the 15-event minimum are eligible for three foreign-tour releases to play in competing events such as the European Tour’s highly lucrative Desert Swing in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai. Still, Pazder said the tour would grant Woods permission to play abroad in 2011 based on the assumption that he would compete 15 or more times in PGA Tour events next year. Woods has won previously in Dubai, has a course under construction there and is believed to still be under contract to play in the event in future years. .
In other words, Woods isn’t risking much in the workplace if he takes his time returning. .
Pazder recalled that for years, veteran Bruce Leitzke chose not to tee it up in the required 15 tournaments, yet when he did play, he performed well enough to finish in the top 125 in earnings and to retain his card for the following year. .
“If he couldn’t get to it [a tournament] from I-10, he didn’t play,” Pazder cracked. .
Tour money and 2011 aren’t really issues with Woods. In 2009, he earned a five-year exemption (for winning the FedEx Cup and topping the money list) and he’s already eligible into the four major championships for several years into the future. .
This is truly the fine print for hair-splitters, but the consequences would differ if a foreign player was in Woods' situation, since they often use the PGA Tour's "home-circuit" exception to skirt its conflicting-event rules. .
This exception allows the player to play as often as he wants on his designated home circuit without needing a conflicting-event release. Those players are entitled to the home-circuit exception as long as they commit to play in at 15 U.S. events. .
Those who fail to play 15 times, barring illness or injury, would forfeit their membership for the following year, and for a period of five years can play only 10 official PGA Tour money events instead of 12, as other non-members are allowed.