Silly Season makes golf a year-round sport
It's autumn. It's football season. And in many U.S. cities and towns, the climate is cooling to a slow freeze. So you pack the golf clubs into the closet, let them hibernate for the winter and hardly think about playing the game.
It's just one more sign you're not an elite-level golfer.
After all, as the weather grows colder throughout much of the United States, Tiger Woods and many other top players are just heating up.
Despite the fact that the 2005 PGA Tour season ended two weeks ago and the '06 campaign is still six weeks away, there will be no dearth of golf events filling up the schedule during November and December.
Leading the Silly Season charge is the world's top-ranked player. Woods is in the middle of a five-week stretch during which he will play in five events. After two tournaments in Asia (the HSBC Champions in China, where he finished second, and this week's Dunlop Phoenix in Japan), Tiger will travel to Hawaii during Thanksgiving week for the Grand Slam of Golf, where he'll be joined by fellow '05 major winners Phil Mickelson and Michael Campbell, as well as three-time major champion Vijay Singh in the star-studded big-money affair.
Last year, Mickelson shot a final-round 59 to claim the two-day event at Poipu Bay in Kauai.
After stopping for, one assumes, a few quick bites of turkey during the holiday, Woods will conclude the week by competing in the venerable Skins Game in La Quinta, Calif. Once again, he'll be joined by Annika Sorenstam and Fred Couples, whose reign as King of the Silly Season endures. But the real story will be whether Sorenstam can consistently outdrive self-described "peashooter" Fred Funk, who rounds out the foursome.
Two weeks later, Woods will close out his busy "offseason" by hosting the Target World Challenge, which will feature 16 of the world's top players, none ranked lower than 37th, with the winner receiving a cool $1.3 million prize.
If it sounds like a rigorous schedule, well, it is. The reason for it is a simple one, however: money. Although appearance fees don't exist on the PGA Tour, top players can receive top bonuses just for showing up for Silly Season events. It's one reason the tour will scale back its schedule starting in 2007, with a four-event Championship Series culminating with the Tour Championship sometime in September. It will give players more time off toward the end of the calendar year.
"If our seasons would have ended where it's going to end, it would be nice to have this break before I go to Asia and play a couple events," Woods said two weeks ago at the Tour Championship. "Now the season runs long and I've got to go to Asia and play some more after that."
Of course, not every Silly Season event includes Woods. The Tommy Bahama Challenge (won by an international team of Justin Rose, Geoff Ogilvy, Kevin Na and Tim Clark), Franklin Templeton Shootout (won by Kenny Perry and John Huston), ADT Skills Challenge (won by Peter Jacobsen) and Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge (won by Hale Irwin) already have been competed and completed. Remaining is the inaugural Bard Capital Challenge, to be played Dec. 4 in Las Vegas. The event will feature Funk, John Daly, Zach Johnson, Tim Herron, Scott Verplank, Nick Price and other professionals against teams of amateur competitors.
There are also some not-so-Silly tournaments during the autumn and early winter months. The World Golf Championships-sanctioned World Cup, comprising two-man teams from 24 countries, takes place this week. And the European Tour regular-season schedule for 2006 has begun already, with four more events to take place (two in China, two in South Africa) before the end of the year.
So, take heart, golf fans. Just because your golf clubs are nestled in the warm environs of the garage or a hallway closet doesn't mean the golf season is over. In fact, it never really ends.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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