Let’s see, we’re four days into 2007 and already the biggest story of the golf season has occurred. Or did you not know that Tiger Woods and wife Elin Nordegren announced Saturday on Woods’ 31st birthday that the couple is expecting their first child this summer?
Woods delivered the message via the Internet, where he told his fans (and to a lesser degree, the media): “Obviously, we couldn’t be happier and our families are thrilled. I have always wanted to be a dad. I just wish my father could be around to share the experience.’’
The announcement was so joyous that the world’s No. 1 player added: “I’m going to stick close to home the next few weeks, which will allow Elin and I a chance to spend more time with our families during this very special time in our lives.’’
The season-opening Mercedes Championship, an elite event for winners only, was immediately ruled out even if Woods already had made precedent for skipping that tournament. But you better believe that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is contemplating the impact of “Baby Tiger’’ on future tournaments.
Always the candid one, Woods didn’t mention his baby’s due date. But experts in such areas are predicting that Nordegren is at least two months pregnant or more, which would place the arrival date no later than early August.
Translated: Woods will probably get in the first three majors of the season — the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open — as all three will be over by July 22. Then again, don’t be surprised if the U.S. Open or British Open — or both! — could get nixed depending on the timetable and other “variables.’’
One thing is certain: Woods will take whatever time off he needs, as this is still Tiger’s tour. And should he take two months off, as he did last year following the death of his father, Earl, it could be a disaster for the Tour.
That’s because the first-ever FedEx Cup is set for a four-tournament swing that starts Aug. 20 and concludes Sept. 16. With no Tiger in the elite field it would be a $10 million bust because TV ratings for golf relate totally to Woods being in the field — or not!
Would Woods stiff the FedEx Cup to be with his wife and child? Well, it depends a lot on the birthday of the biggest-hyped baby to be born in America since Suri Cruise. But if the dates are remotely close, Woods will just say “no’’ based on past situations involving his close-knit family.
Naturally, there will be other stories in 2007 that will stimulate our curiosity. That list starts with what Phil Mickelson will do next after blowing last year’s U.S. Open, and ends with Stanford-bound Michelle Wie and her never-ending odyssey to make a cut in a PGA Tour event.
In between those somewhat awkward bookends, we will find out:
• Can the much-ballyhooed FedEx Cup live up to its playoff hype? OK, NASCAR did it, but golf doesn’t always veer to the left.
• Is Jim Furyk really the second-best player in the world? Or was 2006 a career season for the former University of Arizona star?
• For that matter, can anyone challenge Woods on a consistent basis? (We could answer this question right now, but we won’t.)
• Can John Daly play a full schedule on sponsor’s exemptions? He’ll try!
• Is Sergio Garcia ever going to win another tournament? He’s 0-for-his-last-30.
• Will this year’s Presidents Cup go the way of the Ryder Cup for those “Damned Yankees’’? With only 13 Americans in the top 50, there’s a good chance.
• Can Annika Sorenstam overcome Lorena Ochoa? Bet the ranch on it.
• Will controversial LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens make it through a second season without getting fired? Let’s hope not.
• Does anybody really care about the Champions Tour now that Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer both are officially retired? Just ask yourself if anybody cared before they retired.
• Will viewers really tune in to The Golf Channel to watch a sport that struggles on network television? Perhaps, as keeping it “live’’ will help.
• Can Kelly Tilghman and Nick Faldo co-exist in the same TV booth? Stay tuned.
• Will this be the year the U.S. Golf Association finally decides to rein in the ball?
Not likely, as that would take guts.
• Will golf really begin drug testing? And if so, how many players will get caught, and with what?
All these stories will have some type of impact, for sure. But none will come close to the birth of Baby Tiger.
Listen to Bill Huffman on “Backspin: The Golf Show” on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 9 a.m. on XTRA (910 AM).
What: Season-opening PGA Tour event for winners of 2006 tournaments
Where: Kapalua Resort, The Plantation Course (7,411 yards, par 73), Kapalua, Hawaii
Purse: $5.5 million ($1.1 million to the winner)
TV: The Golf Channel (Today-Sunday, 4-8:30 p.m.)