Eight wins at Firestone not enough to get Tiger into elite WGC field
Tiger Woods is on the outside looking in as an elite field, which includes Pádraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry, prepares to tee off in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Ohio today.
To win a World Golf Championship event once is a big deal, but Woods has won this Bridgestone Invitational eight times and still can't get a place in the $9.25-million dollar tournament.
That's a consequence of his plummeting form over the last two years which has brought Woods to 262nd place in the world rankings and needing a special exemption to get into his own Hero World Challenge.
Speaking at a media event to promote the Deutsche Bank Championship from September 4-7, he resisted the temptation to suggest that as a multiple winner of the Bridgestone Invitational, a place ought to have been found for him.
"I'm not playing Reno this week or Bridgestone, which is kind of interesting because I've won Bridgestone, what, eight times, and I'm not eligible. I didn't qualify. You get into those big events by winning golf tournaments.
"Fortunately enough, I've won the PGA a few times and I'm going to be able to play in that event," said Woods, referring to the certainty of a place in the US PGA championship at Whistling Straits next week,
In fairness, he was not looking for sympathy, although it would be in short supply from his peers, if Jason Day's comments are any indication.
Day, winner of the RBC Canadian Open, was asked if he found it strange that no category could be found for an eight-time winner of the Bridgestone.
"You win the bloody tournament eight times, you probably should. Oh man, it's tough, though.
"It's something that, for us as players, we have to earn our spots in these tournaments.
"Unfortunately, right now, he's (Woods) going through a spell where he's not playing that great.
"Some day I'm going to go through the exact same thing where I have to somehow earn my way back into this tournament, but I'm hoping it's a long way away from now.
"It's kind of weird to not see him playing the events that we're usually used to seeing him playing. Some guys are just hoping for one WGC win, let alone eight times at one venue," said Day.
Darren Clarke (2003) is the only Irishman to have won the Bridgestone Invitational, and he, like Woods, does not qualify for the tournament under any of the categories.
Pádraig Harrington's best finish at Firestone was in 2009 when he was runner-up to Woods.
His last outing was in the Open Championship at St Andrews, and despite a disappointing final round 75, he had started the day in contention and that has given him a lift.
"I didn't play as badly as a 75 suggests. A couple of average shots were harshly penalised, which happens but is tough to take when it does.
"The putts I missed were most disappointing as I putted very well during the week.
"I played a lot of good golf during the week and felt very comfortable being in the mix again; it has made me hungry for more," he told his Facebook followers.
Shane Lowry is eager for the fray and likes the course, while Graeme McDowell hopes to have his putter in good working order for this week and the US PGA test next week.
At home, Galgorm Castle hosts the Challenge Tour's Northern Ireland Open in association with Sphere Global and Ulster Bank.
Michael Hoey, doubles up as the NI Open Tournament Ambassador and Galgorm's Tour pro.
Hoey has won five times on the main Tour and four on the Challenge Tour and hopes to see more players from Ulster come to the fore.
"We haven't always had that much depth in Northern Irish golf," he said.
"I know we've had the tip of the iceberg in Rory (McIlroy), Graeme (McDowell) and Darren (Clarke) and it's been unbelievable, but myself and Gareth Maybin have been the only others on The European Tour.
"We need a few more additions to that, but it looks like we're going to get them pretty soon. Chris Selfridge has just turned professional and has done great," said Hoey.
Ruaidhri McGee, the top-ranked Irish player (17th) in the Challenge Tour Road to Oman rankings, has four top-ten finishes this season and hopes to contend for the title this week.
Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie and Simon Thornton are other experienced competitors in the field.
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