Less Tiger fear factor, more 'trash talk’ could benefit PGA - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Less Tiger fear factor, more 'trash talk’ could benefit PGA

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Posted: Monday, January 28, 2008 9:40 pm | Updated: 8:55 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It’s a good thing Tiger Woods isn’t playing in the FBR Open this week, otherwise we wouldn’t have a competitive golf tournament.

Seriously, the 72-hole showdown at the TPC Scottsdale that starts Thursday might end up like last week’s Buick Invitational, where the chief competition — down by eight shots — conceded the title going into the final round.

Sure, Stewart Cink, who happens to be playing in the FBR Open, was mostly kidding when he said: “I’m in second place. I’m not really in contention.’’ But I also know there’s some sad truth to that statement.

It’s certainly not what you hear in other sports. Hey, you won’t hear the New York Giants conceding the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots just because the latter is undefeated. Or the Suns planning to concede another NBA title to the Spurs just because San Antonio seems to own them.

Like most people who follow golf, I enjoy watching Tiger. But I get bored and a little bewildered when he’s on a tear 11 shots in front of the pack and all you hear from his peers are words of praise and self-pity.

It’s true that there is Tiger and everybody else. But too much domination isn’t necessarily good for golf, either. And it doesn’t bode well for TV ratings, although that, too, is a double-edged sword as you have to have Tiger or there are no ratings at all.

So we’re lucky, I guess, that Woods is playing in Dubai for millions in guaranteed money. Maybe that will free up the 132-man field this week at the FBR and we’ll actually have an old-fashioned dogfight. (Remember those days?)

It’s funny and yet pathetic that the best golfers in the world live in such fear of one player. Thank goodness there still are a few who like to challenge Tiger’s ego even if Rory Sabbatini, who also is here, can’t back it up.

It seems crazy that Nick Faldo, who doubles as the main man on Golf Channel and CBS, has Woods winning the Grand Slam in 2008 – and people believe him. Fine, but let’s see if Tiger can win the first one before we go bonkers with Nicky and give him the other three majors.

Guys, there is a whole season left. The FBR Open is only the fourth regular-season event of the year. Despite his overwhelming performance last week, Tiger doesn’t own the FedEx Cup already.

But apparently Woods has captured his third U.S. Open – his 14th major championship – five months before the tournament takes place at Torrey Pines, the same course that hosted the Buick. That conclusion was jumped to by Fred Couples, another guy who is playing here in Scottsdale.

“What he’s going to do is screw up the U.S. Open for everybody else,’’ Couples said in a joking manner, meaning Torrey Pines would be toughened up considerably by the U.S. Golf Association following Tiger’s latest stroll by the sea.

Others also sounded as if they had been pummeled by the No. 1 player on the planet. Phil Mickelson, the two-time FBR/Phoenix Open champ who came in 13 shots shy of Tiger in their initial confrontation of ’08, had this to say: “Nobody thought too much about winning.’’

Yes, it was that kind of a butt-kicking. Fortunately, there are some who are more resilient. Like 20-year-old rookie Jason Day from Australia, who blew people away at the Buick by suggesting: “Who is any one to tell me I can’t be No. 1 in the world?’’

Perhaps that sounds a little strong, considering Day is the No. 173-ranked player in the world and probably doesn’t know any better. But good for him, and give me more of that golf “trash talk.’’

The hard reality is that, if not for the occasional challenger to Woods’ rule, the PGA Tour could turn into a bunch of millionaire lemmings. But, hey, I’m just trying to rattle their cages a wee bit while hoping they won’t give up. In that regard, I’m glad Tiger flew to the Middle East on Monday to tangle with Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. The crowds at the TPC Scottsdale will be plenty large enough without Woods, and apparently the players need a little time to collectively regroup and, well, get it together.

2008 FBR OPEN SCHEDULE

Today

Practice rounds for PGA Tour pros only

10 a.m. — Scottsdale Celebrity-Am, Grayhawk Golf Club (Talon)

11 a.m. — CBS Outdoor Special Olympics Open

2 p.m. — Bob Goldwater Bridge Dedication – TPC Stadium Course 15th Green

6 p.m. — FBR Opening Dinner (by invitation only)

Wednesday

8:30 a.m. — FBR/Xerox Silver Pro-Am, TPC Stadium Course

10 a.m. — Honeywell Pro-Am, Grayhawk Golf Club (Raptor)

3:30 p.m. — Coors Light Birds Nest entertainment tent opens; Best Damn Sports Show Period — Live at the Birds Nest until 6 p.m.

Thursday

7:40 a.m. — FBR Open first round

3:30 p.m. — Coors Light Birds Nest entertainment tent opens; Best Damn Sports Show Period — Live at the Birds Nest until 6 p.m.

Friday

7:40 a.m. — FBR Open second round

3:30 p.m. — Coors Light Birds Nest entertainment tent opens; Best Damn Sports Show Period — Live at the Birds Nest until 6 p.m.

Saturday

Tee times TBA — FBR Open third round

3:30 p.m. — Coors Light Birds Nest entertainment tent opens

Buick Hole-in-One contest, 16th hole, first ace on Saturday or Sunday wins a new Buick

Sunday

Tee times TBA — FBR Open fourth round

Buick Hole-in-One contest, 16th hole, first ace on Saturday or Sunday wins a new Buick

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