PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — It used to be Bing Crosby. Then Bob Hope. But is there a singular figure from the dozens of 21st-century entertainers and sporting heroes both famous enough and connected to the game to host his own golf tournament?
Exactly, Tiger Woods, who’s almost there. His name isn’t yet attached to the tournament that began life as the Los Angeles Open, but just be patient. Besides, his fingerprints are everywhere. So is his history.
Woods remains an entrant when competition starts Thursday at dear old Riviera Country Club, tucked into the hills above Santa Monica, a place as much a part of the Hollywood movie colony — Humphrey Bogart was a member, as was Dean Martin — as the studios at MGM and Fox.
Woods, who grew up maybe 20 miles away, first played the tournament as the 16-year-old amateur prodigy who was destined to replace Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, as the man who turns heads and, more importantly, gets people to turn on their TV sets.
That at age 44 he’s won virtually everything from St. Andrews to Pebble Beach, 82 Tour victories overall, but never won the L.A.-Genesis Open is of some interest.
Let us call it the small picture, although in golf performance nothing is small to Tiger. For him, there’s first place or nowhere.
Which brings us to the bigger picture. Woods is almost too preoccupied with making the Genesis a success. On Monday, he took part in a six-hole four-ball match with a guy, Bubba Watson, who has done what Tiger hasn’t — won the L.A. event, three times in fact.
But Tiger, for his foundation, and his reputation, is willing to divide his efforts between, say, putting (and driving and chipping) and promo. And there may be another step in a career that seems endless.
Woods said Tuesday he's been approached by organizers of a proposed Premier Golf League and said he has "delved into the details" trying to understand how the new league would work.
That’s an alternative tour to the one he and everyone else always have played, the PGA Tour. To which one would ask, why would he interested? More accurately, why wouldn’t he be?
To borrow a lyric from a long-ago musical, “Kismet,” why be content with an olive when you could have the whole olive tree; why be content with a tree when you could have the whole olive grove? Tiger Woods, commissioner of the Premier Golf League?
Back to the original premise: If you wanted to start a new tournament, you would want — make that, you would need — Tiger involved. Not that he would choose to do it. Again, not that he wouldn’t.
Tiger wasn’t at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week, which is not surprising. He doesn’t particularly like the format, switching courses (even if one of those courses is the iconic Pebble Beach, a favorite of his), six-hour rounds and often lousy weather, although this year the weather was fine.
Because of the celebrities, the AT&T held our attention, especially with Phil Mickelson challenging until the final holes. Attendance was lacking. CBS, quick to let us know if the TV ratings are big, has remained silent. No Tiger, no announcement.
Phil keeps going. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth had their bursts, but about the time we declare there’s a new Tiger we concede there isn’t going to be a new Tiger.
His arrival in the late 1990s, breaking records, crossing ethnic barriers, was a matter of perfect timing, if accidental. Whether there was a Tiger Woods Effect in bringing minorities to a sport that rarely accepted them remains debatable.
But it certainly brought headlines. And viewers.
Truth tell, ESPN, the sports leader, doesn’t care that much about golf — the big exception being the Masters, for which it is contracted to show early rounds. But it always shows Tiger or his score, whether he’s leading or down in the pack, no matter the tournament.
Since that explosive, consuming 1997 Masters triumph, which in a virtual instant made him part of part of American sporting lore, along with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus — and Babe Ruth and Bill Tilden and Babe Didrikson Zaharias — golf has belonged to Tiger.
Jack has his tournament. Arnie has his, at Bay Hill. Tiger has his, the Genesis. The Tiger Tour? Stay tuned.