Tiger Woods lines up a putt on Saturday, June 1, 1996, during the final round of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. Woods went on to win the individual title. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
This Nov. 10, 2010, file photo shows Tiger Woods at a news conference after his round at the Australian Masters Pro-Am event at Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. Woods believes he finally is ready to move on after a self-destructive year that cost him his marriage, his mystique, millions in endorsements and, lastly, his No. 1 ranking. What remains are relationships to repair, along with his golf game.
Tiger Woods shakes hands with Jack Nicklaus after receiving the Jack Nicklaus College Player of the Year award in ceremonies at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, Sunday, June 2, 1996.
Tiger Woods holds his trophy aloft after winning the Las Vegas Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the first win of his pro career.
Masters champion Tiger Woods holds a replica of the Masters Trophy after winning the tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 1997.
Tiger Woods celebrates as he wins the 1997 Masters with a record-breaking 18-under-par performance at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 1997. (AP Photo/Curtis Compton)
Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the 100th U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif., Sunday, June 18, 2000. Finishing at 12 under par, Woods topped second-place Ernie Els by a remarkable 15 shots.
Tiger Woods waves to fans after he won the 81st PGA Championship at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill., on Sunday, Aug. 15, 1999. Woods shot an 11-under 277, beating Sergio Garcia, of Spain, by one stroke. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)
Tiger Woods, right, of the United States, holds the trophy as he makes his winner’s speech outside the clubhouse at the end of the final day of the British Open Golf championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, Sunday, July 23, 2000. At center is South Africa’s Ernie Els and at left Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn the joint second-place finishers. (AP Photo/Adam Butler)
In this Aug. 20, 2000 photo, Tiger Woods points to his ball as it drops for birdie on the first hole of a three-hole playoff against Bob May at the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
Tiger Woods reacts on the 18th hole after winning the 2001 Masters by two strokes over David Duval at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. The win was Woods’ fourth straight major title, completing what many would call the “Tiger Slam.”
Tiger Woods, left, receives the 2002 Masters Green Jacket from Augusta National Golf Club chairman William W. “Hootie” Johnson. The win was Woods’ third Masters title and second in a row.
Tiger Woods gestures as he watches his shot to the 13th hole Sunday, June 16, 2002 at the U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Black Course of Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. Woods went on to win by three shots over Phil Mickelson.
Tiger Woods, center, sits with his fiancee Elin Nordegren, left, and his friend Jerry Chang, right, during Stanford’s basketball game against Arizona in this Feb. 7, 2004.
Tiger Woods reacts to winning the 2005 Masters in a playoff with Chris DiMarco on the 18th hole during final-round play at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
Tiger Woods speaks at a press conference with the trophy after winning the 2005 British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Tiger Woods, right, reacts as he walks off the 18th green with his caddie Steve Williams after winning the British Open Golf Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Course in Hoylake, England Sunday July 23, 2006. The win was Woods’ first major title since the death of his father, Earl.
Tiger Woods holds up the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 89th PGA Golf Championship at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007. The win was Tiger’s 13th major title.
Tiger Woods holds his left knee after teeing off on the second hole during the fourth round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Woods had reconstructive surgery on his left knee Tuesday, June 24, 2008, in Utah to repair a torn ligament. Woods went on to win in a playoff over Rocco Mediate.
Tiger Woods reacts after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th green, forcing a playoff against Rocco Mediate during the final round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
Phil Mickelson, left, winner of the Tour Championship and Tiger Woods, right, winner of the Fed Ex Cup, pose at East Lake Country Club.
Tiger Woods during his statement at the Sawgrass Players Club, Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Media outlets, such as CNN with reporter Susan Candiotti (far right), conduct live shows outside the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., prior to Tiger Woods’ statement.
Tiger Woods answered questions in a press conference Monday for the first time since his Thanksgiving night accident that led to revelations of multiple extramarital affairs.
Tiger Woods during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. On a Firestone Country Club course that he has dominated in the past, Woods posted his highest 72-hole score as a professional, including a closing 77 that left him in a tie for 78th place in the 79-man field.
Caddie Steve Williams holds a club as Tiger Woods hits on the driving range during a practice round for the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods and swing coach Sean Foley watch Tiger’s swing video at the 2010 BMW Championship on Sept. 8, 2010.
Tiger Woods chats with the media after shooting 65 in the first round of The Barclays.
Tiger Woods doffs his cap after holing out for eagle on the 12th hole during Ryder Cup singles. In arguably his most dominant round of 2010, Woods claimed a 4-and-3 win over Francesco Molinari.
Tiger Woods of the U.S. and Steve Williams, caddie to Adam Scott, shake hands on the first tee during the Day 1 Foursome matches at the 2011 Presidents Cup
Tiger Woods of the U.S. celebrates with fans after the U.S. team defeated the International team on the final day of the Presidents Cup.
Tiger Woods celebrates after his birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the Chevron World Challenge.
Tiger Woods drops on No. 15 at Augusta National during the second round of the 2013 Masters. A day later, he was assessed a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop.
Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 24 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Fla. Earnings: $1,116,000
Tiger Woods after his seven-shot win in the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.
Tiger Woods (center right) and Rory McIlroy (centre left) walk side by side during their exhibition at Mission Hills.
Tiger Woods’ injury suffered on this swing Sunday has his PGA Championship and Ryder Cup status up in the air..
Tiger Woods flashes a smile on Sunday during the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, FL.
Tiger Woods announced that he has added the July 5-8 Greenbrier Classic to his usually limited schedule, and inevitably there will be some questions.
Mainly, the inquiries and rumblings will circle around “pay for play” on the PGA Tour. Unlike their counterparts in Europe, the PGA Tour does not allow tournament organizers to pay players appearance fees to compete in their events. But nothing prevents players and companies from forming alliances or partnerships that benefit both parties.
The truth is that there likely is nothing salacious going on here with Woods or anyone else. Then again, we are talking about the most scrutinized athlete in the world. The conversations about corporate sponsors and relationships with players started with Woods back when he signed with Buick when the car manufacturer had four tournaments on the PGA Tour. And it continued when he later signed deals with AT&T and Accenture, two companies that also are PGA Tour title sponsors.
If these things are going to be picked apart, let’s not forget that many of the top players have relationships with corporations that have ties to tournaments. Matt Kuchar carries a bag sponsored by RBC, which sponsors the Heritage and Canadian Open events. Although the field list for the Canadian Open won’t be released for months, there is a good bet that the newly minted Players Champion will join fellow RBC representative Luke Donald in the field. And certainly nobody questions the integrity of Kuchar or Donald.
There is nothing wrong with these associations. If you want to say that these parties are taking advantage of opportunities, or loopholes, then so be it. How can it be a negative when everyone benefits? Players benefit, tournaments benefit and fans benefit. Zurich has its brand ambassadors, and they play the Zurich event in New Orleans. Wyndham has its player representatives, too, and they show up in Greensboro. The list goes on. Operating a Tour event these days has become more and more competitive, and to ensure a quality field, some corporate sponsors realize that they have to go the extra mile – within the rules, of course.
The PGA Tour has very high standards concerning sponsorships. Hard-liquor corporations and casinos are not allowed to become tournament title sponsors. To that end, players are not allowed to advertise for companies in those segments directly through their clothing or logos. To get around this, rather than just having a Johnnie Walker patch on his clothing, Jim Furyk wears the Johnnie Walker Collection. Kuchar and Retief Goosen sport the Grey Goose Collection of golf shirts.
No one is any more fooled by this than they were when Jim Thorpe wore a shirt that promoted Foxwoods Resort. Foxwoods is a Connecticut resort with two golf courses designed by Rees Jones. It also boasts the largest casino in the United States. Is this a contradiction? Probably, but the truth is that it doesn’t really matter. The line has to be drawn somewhere.
The staff at the Tour is constantly monitoring its brand. Maintaining the Tour’s squeaky-clean image is a full-time job. The reason that so many corporations are willing to spend large portions of their marketing budgets to be associated with the PGA Tour is in large part because of this image. What other sports entity can claim the charitable contributions that the PGA Tour can? The answer is, none.
But that won’t stop the questions and the suggestion that something untoward is going on when the highest-profile athlete in the world decides to add a seemingly out-of-the-way summer stop to his schedule. The fact that the venue is owned by a flamboyant billionaire, Jim Justice, will only fuel the speculation. So get ready; the questions will come.
The Greenbrier will mark the third time in less than a year that Woods will visit a PGA Tour event for the first time in his career as a pro (he played last fall’s Frys.com Open and The Honda Classic earlier this season). Is this part of his rebranding, his new, improved image or something else?
I prefer to think that he just wants to spend a little time in West Virginia this summer. And if Justice decides to put his support behind the Tiger Woods Foundation, then Woods’ students will benefit.
It’s a win- win . . . but that won’t stop the naysayers.