Woods Event to Pay Tribute to Military
Thursday, March 8th 2007, 5:55 am
News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Tiger Woods is bringing more than a golf tournament back to the nation's capital.
Along with his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 professional majors, Woods has quietly set a couple of goals for his work outside the ropes over the last couple of years.
One of them was to be the host of a PGA Tour event in the same way Nicklaus has the Memorial and Arnold Palmer has Bay Hill. The other was to expand his Tiger Woods Learning Center beyond the $25 million facility that opened a year ago in Anaheim, Calif., and already has provided educational tools to more than 5,000 kids.
He knocked out both of them Wednesday in Washington.
Woods was officially announced as the host of the new AT&T National, which will be played the week of Fourth of July. The Tiger Woods Foundation will run the tournament and get charitable proceeds, and Woods said that money would go toward building a new learning center in the Washington area.
``The last year or so, we've been looking up and down the Eastern seaboard for a new learning center,'' Woods said. ``And then this opportunity fell into our laps. It makes sense to build it here, we just haven't had time to find a site yet.''
The first step is to build a tournament.
The AT&T National replaces the International outside Denver, which shut down last month when tournament founder Jack Vickers couldn't find a sponsor, which he blamed in part on Woods not playing the event.
It will be played July 5-8, and Woods isn't sure if he will be able to play this year because his wife is expecting their first child. But while Palmer bought the Bay Hill Club and Nicklaus built his own course in his hometown outside Columbus, Ohio, Woods is establishing his tournament roots in Washington.
``That's our intent, to stay here and have this be our home event, hopefully for perpetuity,'' he said.
Woods becomes the youngest player to host a tournament. Bobby Jones was 32 when the Augusta National Invitation _ which later became the Masters _ was held in 1934. Nicklaus was 36 when the Memorial was played for the first time. Palmer was 44 when he took over at Bay Hill, and Byron Nelson had been long retired when he gave his name to a tournament in Dallas.
``Not too many people are fortunate to have an opportunity like this,'' Woods said. ``What Bobby Jones did for golf and starting the Masters, that won't be touched. As far as what Jack has done at the Memorial, or Arnold at Bay Hill or Mr. Nelson in Dallas, those have been true legends of the game. They made a tremendous impact on our sport.
``I want to build something along that level,'' he said. ``Obviously, with my competitive nature, I want it to be better.''
First the tour has to secure a golf course.
All signs point toward Congressional Country Club for 2007 and 2008. The club is to vote on the tour's request over the next few weeks, and Woods and Finchem openly lobbied members to approve it.
``Right now, the energy at Congressional is very, very positive and very supportive,'' Finchem said. ``And we hope that carries over to the response from the overall membership.''
Finchem said the purse would be at least $6 million, but he hasn't decided the size of the field. He said it likely would be comparable to other invitationals _ Memorial, Bay Hill, Colonial _ which have fewer than the 156-man fields typical of summer events.
Woods always dreamed of being host of a regular PGA Tour event _ he just didn't expect it this soon.
He started the Target World Challenge, an unofficial event held in California in December, in 1999 and spoke to his father about finding a way to earn full tour status.
``The way the tour is structured, it didn't look like we would have an opportunity until 2010, '11 or '12,'' Woods said. ``But we were lucky enough that this one came up.''
It came at the expense of the International, played at Castle Pines outside Denver. Woods only played there twice, the last time in 1999, and didn't return because he didn't care for the golf course.
AT&T now is title sponsor of five tournaments. The company sponsors PGA Tour events at Pebble Beach and in Atlanta, along with two tournaments on the Champions Tour. Finchem said the deal in Washington would be for at least five years, with an option to sponsor the event through the end of the TV contract in 2012.
Why couldn't AT&T work in Denver?
``For whatever reason, we couldn't find any magic for sponsors as it relates to Denver,'' Finchem said. ``We had been trying two years.''
Woods already has put his mark on his new tournament.
He said all active military and children under the age of 12 will get free admission to the tournament. Both instances are a tribute to his father, Earl Woods, who died last year of cancer.
Earl Woods spent 20 years in the military and did two tours in Vietnam with the Special Forces. Tiger Woods went through training at Fort Bragg a few years ago, and he has made trips to aircraft carriers while in the Middle East for the Dubai Desert Classic.
``I remember when I first came on tour, my goal one day with my father was to host an event on the PGA Tour. I just wish he could be here to see it,'' Woods said. ``I think he probably would have shed a few tears.''