After 14 years at Sherwood Country Club, Tiger Woods' World Challenge event heads east in 2014 for a likely one-year stop at Isleworth. The event is then expected to go elsewhere after that--likely the Bahamas--a factoid an exhausted Woods accidentally noted in his post round press conference Sunday.
On a positive note, the grotesque Tavistock Cup will be retired as a result of this move, while Tiger and his mostly Florida-based friends get a shorter trip to the warm weather golf courses that are never as interesting on television as cool season grass layouts.
Northwestern Mutual, a presenting sponsor in 2012 and title sponsor this year, evidently signaled they are not interested in returning as a sponsor. This was evidenced by the number of thank you's Tiger issued to this year's sponsor: zero. Zilch. Nada.
At his Wednesday press conference, Woods never thanked the sponsor even with Northwestern Mutual execs standing in the room. And this, after Woods put up $4 million of his own money last year because no title sponsor stepped up until Northwestern Mutual took the lesser presenting sponsor role at the last moment.
Even 2013 champion Zach Johnson managed an immediate thank-you to the sponsor in his press conference, giving them a tip of the cap before thanking anyone else, including the foundation, the tournament director or the big man upstairs.
While it's a small point, the lack of public gratitude toward the sponsor by Woods speaks to a point-missing which is awkward at best, potentially fatal at worst, threatening to doom this event upon its move east. Besides showing up the sponsor for not coming back next year, a little praise for the big check writers says to potential suitors for the 2014 title sponsorship: we love our sponsors.
But to a larger point about the end at Sherwood: most golf tournaments and their sponsors are fighting for attention on the over-saturated schedule long for a sense of permanence and continuity--"value creation" in modern day jargon. As Sunday's record crowd of 24,922 displayed, this event has not grown stale. It never hurts that the "place" was the lavish Sherwood, a treat to visit even if it's not a particularly spectator-friendly course. The meticulously-presented grounds and exclusive ambiance provide just two reasons players enjoyed coming here. Pile on stellar player hospitality, easy World Ranking points, a Four Seasons across the freeway offering a healthy player discount, proximity to manufacturers in Carlsbad and potential LA-based corporate clients based and it's no surprise that the event attracts an incredible field.
From an operations standpoint, Sherwood has never been in better condition, there is a wait list to volunteer and the staff has the event on cruise control without it feeling tired.
Yet for reasons only they can grasp, Team Woods felt the time was right (or required) to move the event east. Woods's foundation has reaped over $25 million from the event. They've made an enormous impact on the lives of children in the area, many of whom were in attendance again and enjoying once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But the risk of undermining the "value" they've accrued in southern California apparently is worth an untold greater reward, or perhaps just a better chance of landing enough financial support with Tavistock and an eventual title sponsor.
Should the event not find a title sponsor or fail to find its footing in warmer environs, the successful run at Sherwood will be forever cited as an example where too little value was ascribed to a sense of place and continuity. Especially when the place in question is the tournament founders' home. And especially where, even after this short-sighted move, he will always have a welcome place to play with his friends should he ever decide to come back.