2003: Our Opinion - Life without Tiger

It wasn’t too long ago that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was peppered with questions about how he might revive his circuit’s West Coast Swing. Back then, a popular adage deemed the “true” start of the PGA Tour season as the moment players showed up to Doral each March.

No longer can such a declaration be issued. The West Coast Swing, even sans an injured Tiger Woods, has shown plenty of life. A refreshed Ernie Els came out of the gates with back-to-back triumphs in Hawaii; a rededicated Vijay Singh prevailed in Phoenix; a resurgent Mike Weir returned to winning form at the Hope; and a resilient Davis Love III conquered all at Pebble Beach, winning for the first time in two years.

Woods, sidelined since December because of minor knee surgery, makes his return at this week’s Buick Invitational, and the flares have been fired. Els. Singh. Weir. Love. And don’t forget Phil Mickelson, whose criticism regarding Woods’ “inferior equipment” is sure to fuel the world’s No. 1 the next time the two are matched.

Woods will be challenged, and the game will be richer. In an era where the perception exists that there are two tiers of PGA Tour events – those with Woods, those without – it should be noted that golf without Tiger has been anything but boring, and interest in the PGA Tour seems as high as ever.

With Woods back in the fray this week, the volume gets turned up even more.

And Doral is but a distant destination.

Unfortunate situation

Life isn’t always fair, and often the game of golf mirrors life. Fuzzy Zoeller paid a high price for trying to help the struggling Champions Tour in Florida last week, getting disqualified under Rule 7-1b after hitting a golf shot on the competition course between rounds.

Rules are rules, and Champions Tour tournament director Gene Smith was doing his job when he drew the assignment to tell Zoeller he’d been DQ’d.

Surely this wasn’t a case where Zoeller was gaining any competitive advantage over his competitors by hitting three balls into a lake, and if there were an appeals process in place, common sense might have intervened. But part of golf’s inherent beauty is that the game lives by a set of rules that are black and white, and never gray.

“Sometimes the rules of golf aren’t fair,” said Jeff Adams, director of public relations for the Champions Tour. “If there are any fingers to be pointed, they should be pointed at us. God

love Fuzzy. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”

An unfortunate verdict? Definitely. But let’s hope the players of the Champions Tour get past their initial anger regarding this isolated incident and continue to support their tour’s fan-friendly initiatives. Momentum has been gained, and the Champions Tour cannot afford to move in any direction but forward.

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