Wrapping Up Tiger, Open

My Open week began Monday, prepping The Institute for our big tournament where we host about 15 PGA Tour players to play the course along with some Fry’s directors and major vendors. That Tuesday outing is always our most important day of the year and the course is always looking its best this time of the year. With the greens rolling at a glass-like 14.5 on the stimp-meter, fairways plush as Augusta National and tee boxes better than most public courses tee boxes, The Institute was ready for action.

Some of the pro’s playing the course that day included Paul Casey, Angel Cabrera, David Duval, Ricky Barnes, Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods. I had the pleasure of being in Angel Cabrera’s group, a two time major winner and one of the longest hitters on tour. He spoke little English but watching him bomb 340 yard drives and raving about our course in Spanglish was a great experience. Seeing the pro’s play The Institute is really a treat; most of the time I’m watching 20+ handicappers chop up the course. That’s not what The Institute was built for. It was built to host a premier PGA Tour event.

This year’s outing was an especially important one because Tiger Woods, yes, Eldrick Tiger Woods, was playing too. This was the first year that Tiger had played the course, and I, along with everyone that is associated with the course was ecstatic he was coming. I wasn’t lucky enough to be in his group but I did catch a couple glimpses of him during his round. I was however able to watch him finish off the 18th green. A couple of the caddies were lucky enough to get a picture with Tiger. Those lucky bastards.

From what I heard Tiger shot a 73, two over, and really loved the course. One thing Tiger loves is plush greens. That’s why he always plays well at Augusta and dreads playing Pebble Beach: the greens. What is The Institute’s specialty? Yup, the greens. As the future site of the Open (2013 is the projected date), The Institute has gotten approval from many of the top PGA pros, but never Tiger’s. It was amazing to know he gave the course a stamp of approval. Hopefully that means future commitments to the tournament from Tiger for future Open’s.

Once Thursday came the work was over. I was able to attend Thursday’s session and watch Tiger play for about half his round. I jumped around to other players too but the obvious draw was TW. Because I worked last year’s tournament I wasn’t able to go out and watch any golf, I was stuck working security all four days and had no chance to watch any play. Luckily I was given the opportunity to watch the tournament this year and I took full advantage.

With the improved field, practically perfect weather and a tight leaderboard throughout the tournament was full of excitement and intrigue. Tiger started off the week slow with a round of +2 on Thursday but found himself in the hunt with three straight 68’s. The fact that Tiger made the cut had The Gold Channel, Fry’s, sponsors and fans alike breathe a huge sigh of relief. Not to mention Paul Casey, a top 10 player in the world, was at the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend. A solid tournament it was turning into for sure.

Tiger is close. Very VERY close to becoming an elite player again. We often hear the phrase “fine-tuning” when talking about Tiger’s game, but in the game of golf and current state of his game it’s true: it needs fine tuning. The golf swing can’t be fixed overnight and I can’t stress enough how difficult it is switching from Hank Haney towards Sean Foley’s “Stack and Tilt” swing. With all the off-course drama, the injuries AND the swing change it was crazy to think Tiger would immediately come back and dominate.

Tiger’s swing looked good last week. There were a few swings that got away but for the most part it looked like a one part, smooth, collective swing. After the disappointing Thursday round three straight 68’s was definitely progress. He hadn’t shot two straight rounds under par all year. All his rounds could have been 3-5 shots better had it been for some short putts dropping. Tiger is playing in the Presidents Cup later this year and I expect a successful Cup for Tiger. It will be interesting to see how next season goes as Tiger would now have worked two years with Foley. I expect good things from Tiger in the future and the progress he showed during the Open was a great sign.

Their were multiple players either tied or within a couple shots of the lead on Sunday. It came down to two players with a few holes to go: Briny Baird and Bryce Molder. Two guys you probably never heard of but for what was about to come…it didn’t matter. Molder made a clutch 12 foot birdie putt on 18 to force an eventual playoff with Baird. After six, yes…SIX playoff holes Molder was finally able to stage off Baird in what was one of the most exciting finishes of the PGA Tour season.

Whether you watch golf or not you knew that Tiger was playing last week. The huge success from this tournament came from Tiger’s commitment to play in his first Fall Series event as a pro. Will he play in it again next year? My instincts say yes. Tiger upped ticket sales by +50% from last year and future commitments from Tiger will only push the tournament to new heights. With the beautiful CordeValle property as the backdrop, big names, great weather and cheap ticket prices the tournament was a huge success. That’s not even the best news…

As previously stated the tournament’s contract with CordeValle ends in 2012 and plans to move to The Institute in 2013. There are also rumors of the moving from the Fall Series to earlier in the PGA Tour season with hopes of it counting towards the FedEx Cup standings. Many of the tour’s top pro’s have already played and approved of The Institute, praising the layout, greens and property as a fantastic future site for the event. Combine The Institute and a possible move into the FedEx Cup race the hopes to be on the year’s top events.

Let’s hope that dream turns into reality.



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