Tiger Woods fills post-Masters void at Wells Fargo as second half of the season kicks off
Joining Big Cat this week are Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas at Quail Hollow
It is a truth and a reality on the PGA Tour that tournaments are only as good as the players that play in them. Major championships carry an air, partly because they are historic but mostly because their fields include 50 or 100 of the best golfers on the planet.
The opposite is true, which we saw in the month following the 2018 Masters. Because the 82nd edition of that tournament was so thick with talent and hype, the void left in its wake felt like a black hole of subpar golf and events without juice (it didn't help that when stars and superstars played,).
There are levels to the "players make events" theory of course. Different combinations of players in varying years at tournaments can make those events seem more or less important. In other words, there is a hierarchy, and Tiger Woods is at the epicenter of that hierarchy.
Woods' return to golf ---- has resulted in an interesting chain of events. All of a sudden, the 10 or 12 or 15 tournaments he plays feel like the 10 or 12 or 15 most important, even if they aren't. The Honda Classic feels more important than the WGC-Mexico Championship. The Wells Fargo Championship feels more important than the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. We can debate for days whether those perceptions are realities (and it is a much lengthier debate than what I'm talking about here), but one thing is not up for debate.
Tournaments that Tiger plays, especially this year and especially when he contends, have become must-see television. They have been important. They have mattered. So when Woods bagged the clubs for a month following his disappointing showing at Augusta National, he sucked up with him any excitement we had following the Masters, and he did so disproportionately.
That is, normally the RBC Heritage and Valero Texas Open are decent tournaments with a few good players that pop if they're close at the end. But Woods has widened the chasm between tournaments that matter and tournaments that don't, so this year those events felt like a wasteland, even when they had top 10 players.
There's good news, though! Woods is back this week for the Wells Fargo Championship. And despite how you (or I, or anyone) feel about Big Cat, it's impossible to deny the amperage he sends into weeks in which he plays. Add to that fact that we're getting major winners Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas along with Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele, and all of a sudden the light at the end of the post-Masters tunnel is getting a lot brighter.
This event largely marks the start of the second half of the season, too (even though that took place mathematically a few weeks ago). Over the next 20 weeks, golfers will play four playoff events, three majors, the Players, a WGC and three other upper crust tournaments (including this week's Wells Fargo). You can see why there's so much excitement about the rest of the season.
As always, though, it all comes back to Woods. The 14-time major winner has played this tournament at Quail Hollow six times with varying results. He won the tournament in 2007 over Steve Stricker and has three other top-11 finishes. He also has two missed cuts, the most recent came in his last appearance at this course in 2012.
Justin Ray of Golf Channel made a really interesting point about Woods last week, too. Woods, who ranks in the top 15 in approach shots, shots around the green and putting, has been horrific with his driver. He gains -.17 strokes per round off the tee and is No. 203 in driving accuracy. That could prove disastrous at a place like Quail Hollow.
Of course Woods, who has had plenty of time to tinker since the Masters, might have solved some of his driver woes. He might also opt to hit more 2-irons and 3-woods off the tee at a more penal track like Quail Hollow.
Regardless of how he plays this course or what he does in the end, it's going to be exciting to watch. With a leading cast of big boy golfers led by the biggest one of them all, golf's second act of 2017-18 starts this week at Quail Hollow and continues next week at The Players Championship. In the immortal words of Bart Scott ...
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