Tour Confidential Daily: Would a Woods victory be diminished because of East Lake’s small field?

September 22, 2018
Tiger Woods, Saturday, Tour Championship

After 54 holes at East Lake, Tiger Woods is in prime position to end his five-year PGA Tour winless drought. But if Woods does raise a trophy Sunday night, would the accomplishment be diminished because he only had to beat a 30-man field? We convened a special edition of our roundtable to debate.

Dylan Dethier, associate editor: Meh, not really. I mean, it’s indisputably easier to beat the Tour Championship field, say, the 100-man Dell. But out here, a win’s a win. If it’s good enough for the Tour, it’s good enough for every Tiger fan.

Sean Zak, associate editor: I think yes, it is automatically a bit diminished because it’s just not the same as any of the other events he’s contended in this year. Just a bit. That being said, if he wins by five, that makes up for it to me.

Josh Sens, contributing writer: Only for the most hate-filled of playah-haters. It would be a win against a field of the elite of the elite, all in strong enough recent form to make it to the final stage of the Fedex cup playoffs. Isn’t that enough? We’d really be getting gloomy if we rained on this parade.

Zak: Just bringing in the technical aspects! He’s beating 29 players (at least a handful of which are [Belichek voice] ‘on to next week.’ Take your Hero World Challenge and add 12 players to it. Would you be through-the-roof excited about him winning in the Bahamas?

Dethier: In fairness, people were DEFINITELY through-the-roof excited every time he sniffed a birdie at the Hero last year. Sign of how far we’ve come.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer: It’s not the truest test since there are so few guys to beat but, hey, a win is a win. That total of 79 includes plenty of Tour Championships and Tournament of Champions and no one has been overly bothered about it to this point.

Josh Berhow, staff producer: How picky are we going to be here? It’s a small but strong field and he’s going to have to hold off the World No. 1 and Rory on Sunday. Plus, Tiger had to make it through the other playoff stops just to get here (something Jordan Spieth couldn’t even do). At the Hero the thinking was “let’s just play four healthy rounds,” and now he might win the Tour Championship—give the man some credit!

Zak: We can definitely give him credit … AND call it like it is.

Alan Bastable, executive editor: Agree with that. I’d love our guy Mark Broadie to weigh in here. How much “easier” is it to win the Tour Championship vs. a full-field Tour event? Twenty percent? Thirty? More? As everyone has said, a win’s a win and the record books are the record books, but if Tiger gets it done Sunday, I suspect we’ll still hear from some hardliners that his latest comeback won’t be consecrated until he beats a full field.

Jessica Marksbury, senior editor: C’mon guys, this is still HUGE! It’s what we’ve been waiting for! So what if it’s a small field? It’s not an invitational – it’s an ELITE field of players who had to qualify all season long to get in. Let’s not rain on this parade!

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor: I agree, Jess. This one counts, just as it’s counted for all Tour Championship winners that have come before it. If Tiger closes it out, No. 80 will be one of his greatest career accomplishments. It’s not the Tiger Slam, or the broken-leg U.S. Open, but given how far he fell in the preceding five years, this win would be on the list.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: If he wins, it of course counts. It’s not winning a major, it’s not winning Memorial, but it’s a remarkable achievement because of the quality players he will have defeated, because of the quality of the course, because of where he has been, where his game has been, and because he will have done the thing that makes the greats great: playing at the highest level for four straight days.