For much of his career, Tiger Woods has been able to dictate what would happen when, both on and off the golf course. But over much of the past year, he has been engaged in a campaign over which he had little control: trying to urge an unwieldy group of 2,000 potential voters to approve a deal for the tournament he hosts to stay at the course he considers the best in the Washington area, Congressional Country Club.
“We want to be here,” Woods said last week.
On Monday, Congressional and Woods’s foundation announced the tournament — now known as the Quicken Loans National — will indeed return to Congressional after this June, albeit on an every-other-year basis beginning in 2016, the result of an overwhelmingly positive vote of Congressional’s membership. The 2015 event will be held at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Prince William County, and the Tiger Woods Foundation and PGA Tour will search for a venue for 2017 and ’19.
“We are excited to keep our tournament in the D.C. area and to be playing at these great golf courses,” Woods said in a statement. “Congressional Country Club and Robert Trent Jones Golf Club will continue to challenge our strong fields while supporting the local community.”
The Congressional vote concluded at 5 p.m. Sunday, and roughly 1,300 votes were counted late into Sunday night, according to club President Steve Durante. The surprise to almost everyone involved was that more than 900 members voted to approve the deal, Durante said.
A 2008 vote on a three-year extension passed by a narrow margin. But Congressional’s board badly wanted the tournament back, in no small part because the Tiger Woods Foundation will pay the club $1.275 million for each of the three years it hosts — 2016, ’18 and ’20.
“The membership spoke in what I consider to be an overwhelming fashion,” Durante said by phone. “. . . I consider that to be a true success, especially considering that in 2008, the margin was just double digits.
“In 2008, certainly Tiger was much more in his prime in every aspect than he is today. To have the membership vote the way it did is a real good indication of Congressional’s desire and intent to not only host a fun time for the area but to give back to the community and the businesses here.”
Originally, Congressional was to vote on a three-year extension that would have covered 2015-17. But when that proved unlikely to pass — at least in part because the tentative late-summer date for the 2015 tournament wasn’t to most members’ liking — the club and Woods’s foundation worked out a compromise. Congressional’s famed Blue Course has been through quite a bit over the past decade — originally hosting what was then known as the AT&T National from 2007 to ’09, having its greens rebuilt in 2009-10, then hosting the 2011 U.S. Open before staging Woods’s event again from 2012 through this June.
The compromise may have swayed voters.
“We thought it was kind of a welcoming break,” Durante said. “Not only a break from a physical and operational standpoint but emotionally. Now it’ll be kind of cool to have the tournament and have the year off and have the anticipation build to the next one.”
Even with the approval of the new deal, officials from Woods’s foundation — which both stages and benefits from the tournament — had to find a site for next year’s event. RTJ hosted four Presidents Cups, including two in which Woods played, and he spoke favorably of the course in an interview last week.
“We’re excited about it,” Malone Schooler, RTJ’s president, said in a phone interview. “We learned many lessons from the Presidents Cups, and we consider our course one of the best in the United States. It’s a test, and I think these talented players will find it pleasing to the eye.”
Rotating courses isn’t unprecedented on the PGA Tour. The Barclays, an annual August event in the tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, now uses four courses in the New York City area. The staff at Woods’s foundation moved its tournament to suburban Philadelphia in 2010 and ’11, so 35 miles from downtown Washington and Congressional doesn’t seem so bad — even though organizers will have to find new parking and shuttle situations for fans and draw from a new volunteer base.
“There are logistical challenges whenever you move and play at a new venue, but those challenges are outweighed by the many benefits in playing somewhere new,” Mike Antolini, the new tournament director of the Quicken Loans National, said in an e-mail. “The rotating model allows us to bring the tournament to new people in the region, and we believe the setup and design of RTJ’s course will provide an excellent spectator and player experience.”
Antolini said Woods’s foundation has “several great options” as a site for the 2017 and ’19 events. Schooler said a decision on those dates is “a little far in the future,” but RTJ has already had a positive experience working with the staff of Woods’s foundation.
“As we move along with the Tiger Woods Foundation and really set the footings for this one, we’ll see if ’17 and ’19 would be on the horizon,” Schooler said.