The annual Tiger Woods golf tournament opened Monday at Congressional Country Club with lovely summer weather, a Congressional Pro-Am round, a luncheon, and the reassuring news that Tiger is back. This is his first competition since he underwent back surgery in March, and it happens not a moment too soon for the PGA, the broadcast networks, and the game itself.
Woods says he expects to be “a bit rusty,” but even a rusty Tiger Woods is good for business and ratings. Ticket sales and viewership dropped for the Masters, which happened a week after he pulled out of the tour. The recent US Open, which Woods also missed, scored a 3.3 for final play, what SportsBusiness Daily called possibly the lowest network rating for a Sunday on record. The Players Championship in May, which Woods won last year, was down more than half. Like it or not, golf needs Tiger Woods—and he apparently also needs golf, announcing on his Facebook page, “I want to play myself back into competitive shape. Excited for the challenge ahead.”
The Congressional tournament, with a purse of $6.5 million, is hosted by the Tiger Woods Foundation, which uses the event to raise funds for college access programs, such as the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, which includes 25 recipients from the Washington area. The foundation has three Tiger Woods Learning Center facilities in the area: at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools in Wards 6 and 7 and at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico. The tournament changed sponsors this year, from AT&T to Quicken Loans National.
At an executive women’s day luncheon Monday at the country club, foundation staffers said they were excited about the new partnership. They mentioned regular spectators at the tournament would find some changes—upgraded stations, more shading from the weather, and more access to grassy areas.
There’s also a sweepstakes that could make someone a millionaire—before taxes, that is. According to Quicken Loans, “if a hole-in-one is made at the National, Quicken will award one person $1 million.” An additional $25,000 will go to a charity chosen by the pro golfer who makes the shot. It has to be the 10th hole, which is easily viewed from the terraces and lawn of the club itself. Entries can be made online by US citizens who are 18 or older.
The Monday luncheon, also an annual event, is a success-oriented pep rally for female (and some male) entrepreneurs and business owners. It includes a breakfast panel discussion followed by a behind-the-scenes tour of the course, and then lunch with a motivational speaker. Carla Harris, a vice chair at Morgan Stanley and the author of Expect to Win, could have been speaking to post-rehab Woods himself when she spelled out her tips for success. “You must be comfortable taking risks,” she said. “Fear has no place in a success equation.”
Tips for the tournament:
- Tuesday, June 24: Professional practice rounds, kids’ day. The gates open at 6 AM.
- Wednesday, June 25: The opening ceremony at 11 AM, followed by a Pro-Am. Woods, as he always does, will honor the military at the opening. Gates open at 6:30 AM.
- Thursday and Friday, June 26 and 27: First and second rounds. Gates open at 6:30 AM.
- Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29: Third and final rounds. The gates open at 7 AM.
- Among those in the field are K.J. Choi, Jason Day, Jason Dufner, Hunter Mahan, Vijay Singh, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, Kyle Stanley, Bo Van Pelt, Nick Watney, and Y.E. Yang.