Date: December 04, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

HAYES: C’mon Tiger, cut us some slack

“As long as I'm riding with Tiger, I'll be fine.”

With that logical but throwaway sentence, Dustin Johnson gave yet another figurative slap to the face of Australian golf yesterday.

As Tiger Woods wings his way to Australia this week from the Bahamas for a part-promotional, part-reconnaissance visit before he captains the American Presidents Cup team at Royal Melbourne next December, he does so with one giant question mark over his head from an Australian golf fan’s perspective.

His departure from his Hero World Challenge, where he closed with a one-over-par 73 to finish 17th of 18 players in his annual charity tournament, came with the customary swag of questions about his plans for season 2019.

Among his responses was confirmation that the Bahamas event will fall in the same post-Thanksgiving slot next year – a week after the Australian PGA and a direct clash with the Australian Open in Sydney the week before the Presidents Cup in Melbourne.

Multiple sources in the American golf media anticipate a Wednesday-Saturday run for the 2019 event to ensure easier logistics for the trip to Australia to ensure players, caddies and families arrive in time. Woods’ entourage is expected to formally announce arrangements after this week’s trip Down Under.

Woods, on Presidents Cup captaincy debut, naturally has an interest in ensuring his squad arrives in Victoria ready to take on Ernie Els’ International team at the site of the hosts’ only victory, now way back in 1998.

The 14-time major winner said earlier this year that he wouldn’t mind if his team members opted to play in the Australian Open instead of in the Bahamas, insisting only that they’re match fit and not coming off a month’s rest, an issue he said was the main problem for his team 20 years ago.

But after interviews with Associated Press senior golf correspondent Doug Ferguson in the Bahamas today, you did not need forensic training to confirm a crime that’s about to be perpetrated on Australian golf.

In all likelihood, the Hero’s invitational field will comprise most, if not all, of the American team for the biennial Presidents Cup, supposedly the showpiece for all golfers ineligible to compete in the Ryder Cup between the USA and Europe in the opposite years.

Woods, a sporadic but multiple visitor to Australia, knows all too well the issues around long-haul flights; just as he’s aware of the historical significance of both the Australian PGA and Open crowns to be contested around his own tournament, which has just completed its 20th edition.

“There are so many things that are up in the air,” Woods told AP. “One of the logistical things I'm trying to figure out is trying to get where there's like eight to 10 guys, plus four, five more … you're getting close to 50 people from the Bahamas to Australia in time for a practice round, opening ceremonies and the event.

“We have our work ahead of us trying to make this all happen.”

Rickie Fowler, another with ties to Australia, admitted the “logistics were not great”.

“A lot depends on the captain and figuring out what we want to do as a team,” Fowler said of Woods and his plans.

Johnson, as mentioned earlier, didn’t appear to have any vague thought about repeating his trip to the 2011 Australian Open in Sydney, instead hitching his wagon to the Tiger train.

Which takes us back to the “crime” aspect.

The US PGA Tour, which does not officially sanction Woods’ event, but happily plonks it on its official website’s tournament schedule, is the chief organiser of the Presidents Cup.

What it also has, courtesy of a major reshuffle, is several newly clear weeks with its 2018-19 schedule to finish in late August, a month in advance of previous years.

Which naturally begs the question: Tiger, can you not please move your tournament into another week?

Nobody outside the inner circle of upper echelon, “needle-moving” players and their managers ever seems to speak bluntly on such matters, instead trotting out tired company lines about crowded calendars and reasons why these stars cannot make tournaments outside North America, not to mention appearance money.

As evidenced by Johnson’s answer, as limp as it is accurate, very few American players are likely to play in Australia and go against the easy money of the Bahamas, safe in the knowledge their boss will scoop them up on Saturday afternoon and safely deposit them at Royal Melbourne with no fear of backlash.

Which means the US PGA Tour, which speaks regularly about the lasting local legacy of events such as the Presidents Cup, will seemingly do nothing about helping to grow the two remaining large-scale and historic events on Australian soil.

Well how about it, Tiger and company? What are you going to do about Australian golf’s potential moment in the sun being eclipsed – again?

Will you let money and American corporates dictate your actions?

Or will you have a global golfing conscience and at least proffer the concept that giving the two Australian events some air – and, heaven forbid, some support – is the right thing to do for events that deserve better, historically, if nothing else.

Nobody in Australia can find the fiscal punch required for our Open and/or PGA championships to bludgeon their way permanently on to the US PGA Tour. We accept that.

But surely, a week after the World Cup drew a less-than-full-strength field and pushed the Australian Open into the calendar doldrums – and all as Tiger and Phil Mickelson played their own megabucks showcase in direct opposition – we can make a case for some love from Woods and his minders.

Australian tournament golf deserves that respect.