Course Of Action
After ending his day birdie-birdie to finish tied for sixth in his own event, Tiger Woods doffed his hat to the huge crowds on three hillsides surrounding the 18th hole at Congressional Country Club. Then he gave one last stylish twirl of his putter, the involuntary gesture he makes when he's happy with work well done. Finally, he headed to the clubhouse grill to reflect on his whirlwind week and prepare to hand his inaugural AT&T National championship trophy to winner K.J. Choi.
"Elin's been watching the tournament on TV, and we talk about how pleased we are with the way it's all gone off," Woods said. In their conversations, his wife shares details of 3-week-old daughter Sam Alexis's day while Tiger talks about the extremely successful event he's been busy fathering in Washington. "She wishes she could be here. The support this area has given us has exceeded all our expectations. We want this event to be in Washington in perpetuity."
Then, Tiger grinned, simplifying his point. "Forever," he said. "Right here."
By "right here," Tiger means both Washington, which produced a crowd of 37,000 fans on Sunday, larger by 2,000 than the final U.S. Open crowd at Oakmont, and Congressional itself, with its distinguished golf legacy and sprawling magnificence.
"This week, we were auditioning for Congressional's members," said Greg McLaughlin, chairman of the Tiger Woods Foundation. "We tried to deliver the best possible product for them and represent Congressional properly."
Relatively few things move Woods to almost childlike excitement. But the combination of Washington and Congressional have got him in their grip.
"I've met President [George H.W.] Bush before and [Secretary of State] Condi Rice," Woods said of two of this week's many prominent attendees. "But the thing that moved me the most was seeing a detachment from Fort Bragg. That was exactly my father's detachment. That was my dad."
Tiger knows what he wants when he sees it, and right now, what he wants is a lifelong connection with this city and, in as many summers as possible, with Congressional, which currently is scheduled to host the 2009 U.S. Amateur and the 2011 U.S. Open. The USGA events would preclude any PGA Tour stop in those years, even Tiger's signature event.
"There's no way to know how '09 and '11 will work out right now. It's just too soon," Woods said. However, his "audition" this week, in which he showed the enormous magnetism of his personality and demonstrated the diversity of the galleries he could attract, had to make a powerful impression of Congressional.
The other three golfers in history who have reached Woods's universal popularity -- Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus -- all built their own courses to host their signature events. Many in golf assume such a project is a long-term possibility for Woods, somewhere in the Washington area. However, on Sunday, Woods dismissed any such idea, at least anytime soon, with a wave of the hand and a "No, no way."
The next-most obvious option is TPC Avenel, for which the PGA Tour plans a $20 million renovation beginning in August. However, that course may forever remain about 18 breathtaking holes and one Taj Mahal-sized clubhouse shy of Tiger's preferences.
"It is very doubtful Tiger is ever going to host any tournament at Avenel," said a source, who requested anonymity because of the delicate nature of the situation. "The tour has not been able to get him to set foot on the property. He won't go, won't even look at it."