PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tim Finchem wasted no time refuting any supposition that the PGA Tour placed pressure on an ailing Tiger Woods to play this week at the Players Championship before he was medically ready.
Appearing live on CNBC on Friday morning, the commissioner of the tour stated unequivocally that there was never any arm-twisting to play or quid pro quo involved for making the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse available for Woods' high-profile public apology last year, a theory that was espoused on a CNBC sister network, the Golf Channel.
"... The idea that we would pressure him to do anything is ludicrous," Finchem said flatly. "We don’t pressure any player to play any tournament. Tiger doesn’t enter a tournament unless he thinks he can win.”
Maybe yes, maybe no, at least on that last point. Woods appeared nowhere near ready to play this week, given that he played only 18 holes in four weeks heading into the tournament and had spent one day practicing with his new swing coach. In the nine holes he played before withdrawing Thursday, Woods was 6 over and hit two balls in the water. There are few, if any, examples of Woods showing up to play with less preparation than this week.
Various talking heads suggested that Woods played only because he was pressure or felt beholden to the tour for making the facility available when he made his first public comments on his ruinous, off-season sex scandal. Finchem told CNBC that he was not concerned that Woods would be sidelined for a lengthy period and said ratings were up from last year in most of the season’s early broadcasts.
“The story now is the young players and when Tiger’s going to come back and play as he used to,” Finchem said. “He doesn’t need to come back and dominate like he did. He needs to play.
“My concern is where his injuries are going to go, and he doesn’t know what the answer is to that. And we won’t know that for a while.”
Despite hosting the event this week at PGA Tour headquarters, Finchem has yet to meet with the print media this week, though a Sunday press session was added after several complaints about his availability were voiced.