Tiger Woods on Monday affirmed his desire to continue having his signature Professional Golfers Association event, the AT&T National, at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda past 2014, but he added in a news conference that “there are certainly options out there, whether it’s in Philly or the D.C.-Baltimore area.”
Woods, the top-ranked professional golfer in the world, has hosted the AT&T National that benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation since the tournament started in 2007. The event was at Congressional from 2007 to 2009, then moved to the Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia in 2010 and 2011 while Congressional prepared for the 2011 U.S. Open. The tournament returned last year to Bethesda, where it is slated to run until at least 2014.
“This has been a fantastic venue for us. ... It’s a wonderful showcase to have a golf course that has hosted five major championships,” said Woods, before a crowd of media and country club members at the news conference. “We would like to stay here, there is no doubt. It’s an ongoing conversation, and we will figure it out.”
The tournament, scheduled for June 25-30, means millions of dollars to Montgomery County hotels, restaurants and shops. The AT&T event in 2009 generated an estimated $29.1 million in direct and indirect spending in the county, with some 23,000 spectators, golfers and others staying overnight in the county, according to a study commissioned by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development. An economic estimate for the 2012 tourney was not available.
“We’d love to have the tournament continue to be here,” said Ginanne Italiano, president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce. “There is not any venue better than Bethesda.”
Woods, who won the AT&T in 2009 and 2012, is a documented spectator attraction and monetary value. In 2008, when Woods did not play, about 90,000 fewer spectators attended than in 2009. The total impact to county businesses in 2008 was estimated at $16.8 million — some $12 million less than in 2009.
“When he is there, the tournament draws a great crowd,” said Kelly Groff, executive director of the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County. “We’re expecting another good year.”
Besides out-of-town visitors spending more in hotels, restaurants and shops, taxi and limousine companies generally receive more business, she said.
The 390-room Hyatt Regency Bethesda always gets a great boost from the tournament, said general manager Anthony Arbeeny, a member of the Bethesda chamber’s board of directors.
“It helps this whole area,” he said. “The community should be thankful this occurs. You want an event like this to continue.”
Players in the tournament tend to want to stay in hotels that are close to Congressional so they won’t have to drive far, said Gregory McLaughlin, president and CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation and AT&T National tournament director.
Last year, heavy storms toppled about 40 trees on the Friday evening of the tournament week, and Congressional staff and volunteers did a great job getting the course in playing shape the following day, McLaughlin said. Spectators were banned from the course that day, but the event set a single-day attendance record the following day.
The heat was a factor for both players and spectators last year, and more cooling stations are being added, McLaughlin said.
As of Sunday, Woods led the Official World Golf Ranking, more than 50 points ahead of second-place Rory McIlroy, who won the 2011 U.S. Open in Bethesda. Besides Woods, 2013 Master’s champion Adam Scott and Justin Rose, who placed second in this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational behind Woods, are among the golfers who have already committed to playing. Scott and Rose rank third and fourth, respectively, in the world.
Woods has 78 PGA tournament victories, second all-time behind the late Sam Snead, who won 82. Woods has already won four tournaments this year, one more than he did in all of 2010, 2011 and 2012 combined. He credits his good start to being in much better health.
“I don’t go out there and run 30 miles a week like I used to. I’m just too old to do that now,” Woods said. “But I still will do all the strength training. I’m stronger now than I ever have been.”