By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief, on-site in NJ
JERSEY CITY – The PGA Tour is entering the annual Fed Ex Cup Playoffs this weekend, here in the shadows of Lady Liberty but on “the Jersey side” of the Empire State Building. With the annual PGA Tour home stretch towards the Tour Championship (Atlanta), Boston sports fans would be checking their Labor Day weekend schedules with hopes of making it to TPC Boston in bucolic Norton, Massachusetts for, at least, one round of professional golf.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland loved Boston with all its Irish support, (not to mention his championships in 2012 and ’16), as did former champions like Vijay Singh, Henrik Stenson, Charlie Hoffman, Rickie Fowler (thanks for the “Dom” bubbly in ’15, Rickie), and last year’s champ Bryson DeChambeau. Even a Los Angeles Lakers fan like 2006 champion Tiger Woods loved to play his Labor Day weekends in Boston, whether it was the trophy he bought with his own foundation’s cash – depicting the old Deutsche Bank Championship (DBC) – or the more modern-day Dell Technologies Championship or this well-run Northern Trust event, Tiger loved the juice. But, with the new title sponsor as of last August-September and senior tournament exec Seth Waugh bolting Deutsch Bank for the CEO slot of the PGA of America, they told us there’d be no PGA Tour golf in Norton in 2019 and the tournament would play leap-frog with the NY/LI/NJ version of the game.
“Jay (Monahan) and I started the event there … a huge relationship with Boston and my (Tiger Woods) Foundation, and playing there, we loved playing there,” explained Woods to the assembled New York-Metropolitan area media, far more accustomed to Yankee Stadium or Winged Foot than a New England love affair with a Labor Day golf tournament.
“The fans were so supportive over the years,” noted Woods. “It’d be a shame if we never went back to that market. I know we are guaranteed to go back next year, but it’s a shame if we never go back there again.” (Well I declare!)
“It’s ironic, because I had such a deep love for playing there, and played well there, because, honestly – when I grew up – we in Southern California did not like Boston.”
Woods put the Lakers vs Celtics rivalry aside as he embraced the DBC and the Dell Tech tourney with his foundation head, Rick Singer, orchestrating a tournament that was second to none on the entire Tour. In New England, it was the gem of sports weekends, tucked-in as Boston College and Harvard played their first Saturdays of football and the New England Patriots raised another Super Bowl banner.
Each year, it somehow became better and more enjoyable, even as the sun set earlier and summer became fall in front of our eyes each Labor Day weekend.
Would McIlroy be disappointed if he didn’t hear those Irish brogue cheers if Boston had become the “odd man out” as the PGA Tour and FedEx marketers condensed the season to end before Tom Brady and his Patriots kicked-off?
“If we didn’t have a tournament in Boston? Yeah, (I’d be disappointed). It’s been a wonderful place for me over the years, but it’s also been a wonderful place for the Tour. There’s a couple events – it seems weird we didn’t;t go to Akron (Firestone) this year. It seems weird we’re not going to TPC Boston.”
The world’s No. 1 agrees.
“Yeah, I like Boston,” said Brooks Koepka. “A bunch of my buddies live up there, so it’s always nice for me to go up there and visit with them and see what they are up to, because obviously we’re traveling so much during the year, you don’t get to see them.
“Boston – it’s been good to me and I enjoy that place. I didn’t get to go to Boston until I was in my early 20s. One of my best friends lived up there and went to school up there. It’s been a place I’ve visited quite a bit over the years,” said Koepka.
“It’s interesting with the rivalries, and I guess you can mark this – (the NY/NJ event for the PGA’s FedEx first-round playoff vs. TPC Boston – as one of them,” he added.
The rivalries will play out in Jersey City this weekend, not Norton and not in Foxboro or Fenway or the Bronx. It’ll be at least until the Summer of 2020 when the Red Sox are playing better baseball, the Patriots are prepping for another title run under Tom Brady and when Tiger Woods wears Kelly Green instead of lime green to honor the Boston Celtics’ triumph over his LeBron James-led Lakers.