If you’re heading to Firestone Country Club, buy a program. Hopefully the PGA Tour and World Golf Championships will require the players in the Bridgestone Invitational to wear polos with numbers on the back, and they can produce a roster.
If you’re heading to Firestone Country Club, buy a program. Hopefully the PGA Tour and World Golf Championships will require the players in the Bridgestone Invitational to wear polos with numbers on the back, and they can produce a roster. Yes, these guys are good, as the PGA Tour pro claims in commercials. But then, this week especially, don’t you just want to know who these freaking guys are? Granted, Wednesday was just a mere practice round. Still, it was a sleepy practice round the afternoon before they start counting strokes in the $8 million tournament that the winner takes home $1.35 million. This isn’t the same Bridgestone Invitational without Tiger Woods. When Woods is in town taking up a suite at Glenmoor Country Club, everyone else in the field of 81 is playing for second. And they know it. Tiger won this tournament last year, the year before and the year before that. He won it in 1999, 2000 and 2001. These World Golf Championship events are supposed to be the best of the best. A surgeon’s knife is the only thing that could keep Tiger from winning here again. The winner of Sunday’s tournament will know in the back of his head, he won this event without Tiger in the field. “Well, everybody will just move up one place from where they finished in the last,” said Stewart Cink, who won in 2004. “Tiger has set the standard now like it’s never been set before. It’s more difficult to win now.” Cink caught himself. “Not now since Tiger is hurt, but in the Tiger Woods era,” he said. “In a way, Tiger has spoiled it for everybody because he makes it look so easy. But it’s not easy.” There are 18 players in this field who have never set foot on Firestone, at least not without paying. Wednesday afternoon a kid, no more than 10, had a University of North Carolina hat that was signed by a dozen golfers. He admitted the only signature and golfer he knew was Geoff Ogilvy. Who knows Mark Brown? Or Brandt Snedeker (doesn’t rhyme with who the hell is he). Or Pablo Larrazabal (God bless you)? Or the fellow with two last names, Johnson Wagner? Hey, you think Harvey Penick ever heard of James Kingston? Chez Reavie won the RBC Canadian Open, yeah that one, to qualify to Akron. Now most years you wouldn’t care that Chez Reavie, ranked 184th in the World Golf Rankings, is here because you’re tuning in to watch Tiger. Then there’s a guy such as J.J. Henry in this field. J.J. Henry hasn’t won a Tour event since the 2006 Buick Championship. He’s ranked 272nd in a field that’s supposed to be the créme de la créme. He’s a member of the Ryder Cup team -- did us proud, huh? -- and gets to play Firestone. At least Anthony Kim won twice this year, Wachovia and the AT&T National, to earn a spot in this field where last place will get you a first-year teacher’s $30,000 salary. Not bad for four days of golf. But Kim knows the score. “Obviously, when Tiger is not in, the ratings are going to go down a little bit,” Kim said. “He’s been the face of the Tour, and it’s hard to replace a guy like that. “At the same time, there’s still 81 players out here that can play, and we’re trying to do some of the things that he’s done. There’s some young guys that may have an opportunity to make a name for themselves.” Maybe that will happen ... for a weekend. Maybe a guy like Oliver Wilson -- and you’ve only heard of him if you’re TV is stuck on the Golf Channel -- will surprise Akron. Then again, this year there will be no surprise. Tiger won’t win. Somebody else will. And there’s a decent chance that somebody else will be just that a week from now, somebody else. Tiger has, indeed, spoiled golf. He dominates the game, and that’s the drawing power. Golf without Tiger is, well, it’s just a good walk spoiled. Contact Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or email@example.com.