It rained off and on at Sedgefield Country Club on Tuesday, a gentle mist and then a pouring soak, and no one cared. Tiger Woods showed up anyway, late in the afternoon. The sense of anticipation surrounding the Wyndham Championship was undiminished.
This is a big deal to have Tiger in the Triad, his first competitive appearance in North Carolina in more than three years.
Woods will tee off at 7 a.m. Wednesday, playing in the pro-am of the Wyndham Championship alongside Chris Paul – who, not entirely coincidentally, has a shoe deal with Nike – before playing the first two rounds with Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama.
It’s been a long time since the erstwhile Greater Greensboro Open was this great. Pinched between the PGA Championship and the beginning of the FedEx Cup, it’s an easy one for the top pros to skip, which has had the unintended consequence of a high recent percentage of winners with North Carolina ties, since those players place a higher priority on this tournament for obvious reasons.
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That includes Webb Simpson and Carl Petterssen. Davis Love III has won it twice. Scott Hoch won in 2001.
Other than Hoch, they’re all back, along with Neal Lancaster and Tim Clark – a total of eight golfers who grew up or went to school in the Triangle along with a handful of others with various North Carolina ties. Brendon Todd and Chesson Hadley are even paired together. A couple of unexpected sentimental favorites from U.S. Opens at Pinehurst past are in the field, too, Jason Gore and Erik Compton.
Tiger Woods, ranked 286th, still moves the needle like no other, which is why public parking for the Wyndham was moved from a furniture store to the Greensboro Coliseum.
That’s typical for the Wyndham. And it’s just as typical that some of the biggest names on the tour are taking the weekend off, from Jason Day to Jordan Spieth (a Wyndham playoff loser as a tour rookie in 2013) to Bubba Watson to Dustin Johnson. Tiger yes, but Phil not since 1998. Brandt Snedeker, the 2007 winnner, Koepka and Matsuyama are the only players in the field among the top 20 in FedEx Cup points.
But when you throw in recent major winners like Adam Scott, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwarzel and Jason Dufner and 2014 FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel, it’s the strongest field in decades, perhaps even before the player ranked 286th in the world rankings decided to make his first career appearance at what appears to be the nadir of that otherwise dominant career and remove any doubt.
But that 286th-ranked player still moves the needle like no other, which is why public parking was moved from a furniture store to the Greensboro Coliseum, which is why the media center was expanded on short notice, which is why it’s Christmas in August for the tournament and Greensboro itself.
Tiger Woods may not be playing like Tiger Woods these days, which is why he’s playing this tournament in a last-ditch attempt to get into the FedEx Cup or at the very least rediscover some fraction of his mojo, but he sells tickets like Tiger Woods always has.
In 76 years, the Wyndham-nee-GGO has seen its share of history, from Sam Snead winning on a near-annual basis to Charlie Sifford being invited to break the color barrier in 1961, a landmark celebrated Tuesday with members of Sifford’s family.
“And this is one of the special moments this week, with Tiger joining us,” tournament director Mark Brazil said Tuesday.
It’s that big a deal. So better it rain Tuesday than Wednesday, better it rain Wednesday than Thursday, even better it rain not at all, but that may be too much to ask in North Carolina in August.
It used to be expecting Woods to appear in North Carolina in August was too much to ask. Instead, golf fans benefit from his ongoing struggles. His mere presence makes history.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947