Charlie Woods Should Have Been Given a Sponsor’s Exemption to the Cognizant Classicq

Alex Miceli says that if the point of sponsor invites is to create buzz, then Tiger Woods’s son should have been in the main event rather than a pre-qualifier.

 

 

He was outmatched as he shot a 16-over 86, 21 shots worse than leader Billy Basham and tied for 110th out of the 112 who had entered.

 

 

Charlie Woods didn’t come close to advancing in a pre-qualifier for the Cognizant Classic.

 

 

 

Charlie Woods has never played in an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event and the fact his father is arguably the greatest golfer of all time does not mean those skills have entirely rubbed off on the younger Woods.

 

Yet I maintain Cognizant, on its maiden voyage as a sponsor of a PGA Tour event, should have given Woods one of its sponsor exemptions.

 

Some may consider it blasphemy to even suggest that Woods be given such a golden ticket after shooting 86 in a pre-qualifier. A quick history lesson:

 

In 1992, Mark Rypien led the Washington Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XXVI over the Buffalo Bills and as Super Bowl MVP was the hottest sports commodity in the Washington area. Four months later, the PGA Tour came to town and its tournament’s then-general chairman honored a request from Rypien to play in the D.C. area’s May PGA Tour event.

 

“When he asked to play in the Kemper Open, I was delighted to offer him an exemption into the main field, Ben Brundred Jr. told the Washington Times. “Fans and players will enjoy his participation.”

 

Of course back then the purses were miniscule compared to now, with the 1992 Kemper offering a $1.1 million and winner Bill Glasson pocketing $198,000.

 

Brundred wanted to do his best to build fan interest and engagement, and Rypien delivered.

 

That was the first time a professional athlete from another sport played in a PGA Tour event, and it marked the beginning of using sponsor exemptions for more than just no-name pros.

 

Years later there was Michelle Wie, a young golf prodigy from Oahu’s Punahou School who was a fixture at the Sony Open from 2004 to 2007.

 

 

“The sponsors are putting up the money,” Hawaii native and PGA Tour player Dean Wilson told the Associated Press in January 2004. “They need players to get people to turn on the TV and, obviously, Michelle is a perfect choice. I hate to say it, but no one turns on the TV to watch me play.”

 

While Wie never made it to the weekend at the Sony, she got close. And every year she created buzz for the tournament.

 

 

 

On Thursday he showed he has a way to go to compete with the semi-big boys, but a sponsor exemption is ultimately about creating buzz for a tournament and, more plainly, putting butts in the seats.

 

The younger Woods would have done that. Just look at the interest in a pre-qualifier that drove the PGA Tour to have a photographer and reporter on site.

 

 

 

And if the younger Woods had been playing this week, his famous father would have been either inside or just outside the ropes.

 

All would have added up to a win-win for the tournament and potentially the young Woods as well.

 

The bottom line is that sponsor exemptions have an important place in professional golf for a tournament to be able to create interest.

 

History has shown that names sell and Charlie Woods, because his famous father sells, would have generated buzz in the former Honda Classic. And with signature events taking away the better players, these tournaments can use all the help they can get.

 

Look at the first four players on the alternate list for the Cognizant: Tom Whitney, Kevin Dougherty, Wilson Furr and Josh Teater.

 

Is anyone seriously considering one of these four over the young Woods and his potential upside?

 

 

Gideon Canice

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