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The Sherwood show goes on, even without Tiger Woods

Woods' absence this week from tournament that bears his name leaves his fellow competitors disappointed but has not prompted a substantial demand from fans for refunds, officials say.

December 02, 2009|By Jim Peltz
  • Although Tiger Woods will not attend the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament that he usually hosts at Sherwood Country Club, his image is found all over the course on banners.
Although Tiger Woods will not attend the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Players and tournament officials said Tuesday they were disappointed that Tiger Woods would miss his charity's golf tournament in Thousand Oaks but that they respected his decision.

"Yeah, I'm disappointed not to be able to play against him," said Stewart Cink, winner of the British Open this year and one of 18 players in the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club. And for the fans, Cink said, "with him not being here that's unfortunate for them."

But the event's ticket holders were not demanding a substantial number of refunds after Woods opted not to play this week in the wake of his car accident that sparked a global media sensation, the tournament's director said.

"It's not like our switchboard was inundated," said Greg McLaughlin, president and chief executive of the Tiger Woods Foundation, the charity that benefits from the four-day tournament that starts Thursday.

"It hasn't been an overwhelming number" of refund requests, he said. "Traditionally what will happen in these situations is it's less than 2% or 3%, not big numbers."

General admission ticket prices range from $30 to $40 per day.

Citing his injuries that included cuts on his face, Woods said in a statement that he wouldn't play in the tournament and he canceled a news conference scheduled Tuesday at the country club. He hasn't spoken publicly since the accident happened early last Friday.

On Tuesday, the Florida Highway Patrol said Woods was cited for careless driving because of the accident, plus a $164 fine, but he will not face criminal charges.

Since the accident, a frenzy of media speculation and gossip has flourished about exactly what caused Woods' crash outside of his Orlando-area mansion -- in which his car hit a fire hydrant and a neighbor's tree -- and whether it stemmed from a dispute with his wife. On Tuesday an attorney for Woods' neighbors who dialed 911 after the crash said the golfer did not appear to be driving under the influence and showed no signs of having been in a fight.

As the tournament's players practiced Tuesday in Thousand Oaks, a television in the club's media center was airing yet another story about Woods' accident and marriage -- not on the Golf Channel but on the celebrity show "Access Hollywood."

And on Monday night, Woods was rich fodder for comedian Jay Leno, who opened his network show with 10 consecutive jokes about the golfer's crash.

Example: "In fact, when John Daly heard that a golfer drove into a tree, out of force of habit he turned himself in."

Cink and other golfers in the tournament declined to join the speculation about Woods' accident, but all agreed that they were disappointed not to be battling the world's No. 1 golfer for the event's $1.35-million first-place prize.

"Guys always want to go head-to-head with Tiger," said two-time British Open winner Padraig Harrington.

"We don't know exactly what the story is [but] when you're the biggest sports star in the world, that [publicity] goes with the territory," Harrington said.

"His spotlight is massive."

The tournament selected Justin Leonard to replace Woods in the event, and it named Graeme McDowell to replace defending tournament winner Vijay Singh, 46, who withdrew because of a knee injury.

The tournament gets most of its revenue from corporate sponsorships and ticket sales, and McLaughlin said, "There has not been any negative fallout that we've received with respect to [Woods] not being able to play.

"People clearly wish Tiger was here, but their support has really been good," he said.

Lee Westwood, another player in the tournament, said, "Tiger himself will be disappointed he's not here this week.

"There will be a lot of disappointed people," Westwood said. "But what can you do? You can only play against the field that is put in front of you."

james.peltz@latimes.com

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