Tiger Woods' tournament is going away, and he couldn't stop it

Tiger Woods played well in his own tournament this past weekend, but it seems likely it's the last one he'll play in, as the event falls off the PGA Tour schedule. Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

POTOMAC, Md. -- Tiger Woods did a good job of covering up any angst. His game face was on from the moment he arrived at TPC Potomac, where he was not only playing in another golf tournament but here to serve as its host.

Deep down, however, there had to be a range of emotions. Sadness, maybe anger. Resignation, maybe resentment. Pride, maybe anxiety.

The Quicken Loans National, a tournament Woods started almost on the fly 11 years ago, ended Sunday with no immediate future. PGA Tour officials would not say it was gone, nor would Woods' own employees who work for his foundation and live in the Washington, D.C., area.

But other than some official proclamation, the tournament is done, at least in its current capacity, certainly for next year. There will be no spot on the revamped schedule when it is announced next week. Quicken Loans will have a new event in Detroit, but Woods and his foundation are not going with it.

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What began in 2007 as the AT&T National was to be Woods' tournament in the way of Jack Nicklaus' Memorial and Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill. It would have a limited field of 120 invited players, just like Jack and Arnie. In Woods' case, it would benefit his foundation, which went all in on the nation's capital, building three Learning Centers in the surrounding area and using the tournament platform to raise funds and honor the military around the Fourth of July.

"We tried to celebrate what our men and women were doing in the service, trying to do it on our nation's birthday,'' said Woods, who noted that former President George H.W. Bush helped with the opening ceremony. "We really wanted to say thank you.''

In the process, Woods and his foundation saved golf for D.C. The old Booz Allen Classic and its predecessor the Kemper Open -- played at what was then the TPC Avenel and widely reviled -- was going away, and the tour gave the dates of the International in Colorado to Woods, who would get a coveted spot on the new FedEx Cup schedule. Playing at venerable Congressional Country Club was also a huge help.

Along the way, Woods won the tournament twice. So did Justin Rose. Anthony Kim -- remember him? -- won it in 2008.

And yet a decade later, the tournament is on its way out and the world is left to wonder how Tiger Woods, the game's biggest draw, could leave on Sunday night with throngs of spectators chanting his name, unlikely to return here as a competitor.

Getting to the source of that is not easy because those in the know have been unwilling to admit what is evident. Some of that, understandably, had to do with not taking the shine off tournament week. Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, has maintained that work is still being done to find a title sponsor. Same for Rick Singer, who is the chief executive of the TGR Foundation and tasked with -- among many other things -- working on such sponsorships. The PGA Tour would not make any of its executives available.

So we are left to wonder. Certainly Woods' lack of participation due to injury over the past two years did not help. Quicken Loans signed on for four years starting in 2014, and that was the year Woods had his first back procedure.

He would never admit it, but Woods clearly rushed back, playing his first event following surgery at Congressional and missing the cut. The following year, Woods played in the event that moved for 2015 to Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia, but he missed 2016 at Congressional and last year at the TPC Potomac. He also missed the event three times during AT&T's sponsorship.

It certainly did not help that Woods was not here last year while the tournament was in the midst of trying to renew with Quicken Loans. Woods could not play following back surgery but might have been expected to be on site, shaking hands and working on relationships.

But Woods was just a month removed from his DUI arrest, which stemmed from prescription painkiller use. He later went to a treatment program. Woods stayed away from his own tournament, and it's fair to wonder how much that hurt, although it clearly was just one of several factors.

Along the way, the Greenbrier Classic, which was launched in 2010, came to take the July 4 dates. Woods' tournament has been played the week prior most years and in 2016 came the week following the U.S. Open. The field suffered somewhat, as the European Tour schedule gains strength now heading into The Open.

Did Woods not twist arms enough to get his big-name peers to play? Perhaps, but that has never been his style, understanding exactly how a player would view such recruiting. Woods undoubtedly would be hard to say no to -- just as Jackie and Arnie were -- but ultimately a player's schedule is the sum of many moving parts, and Woods knows that better than anyone. He preferred to let them decide without his influence.

The biggest issue is sponsorship. Based on television ratings, web traffic, social media posts and attendance, Woods is the game's biggest attraction by a landslide. So why the difficulty? Quicken Loans wanted to be in its home of Detroit, and when someone is willing to write a check, the PGA Tour will oblige. Minneapolis has also come on board with a new tournament and title sponsor for next year. Woods, with all the time and resources invested in the nation's capital, wanted to stay here.

"The support has been fantastic, we just haven't got the sponsorship dollars,'' Woods said. "It's a tough climate right now, and to ask a company for $7, $8, $9 million, it's tough. That's where we're at.''

And that is where the tournament has been at for more than a year. Quicken Loans' original deal expired after last year's tournament. The tour opted out of an agreement to play at Congressional this year due to a hefty site fee and chose to return to TPC Potomac with the hope of finding a new title sponsor. It never happened. Quicken Loans only recently signed on for pennies on the dollar this year as part of its agreement with the new event in Detroit.

Perhaps now the Genesis Open becomes Woods' legacy tournament. Two years ago, Woods' foundation became part of the event at Riviera Country Club. His management team runs that tournament just as it has this one and the event in the Bahamas, the Hero World Challenge.

Riviera is a historic venue, near Woods' boyhood home in Orange, California, and also close to the foundation's home office in Anaheim. That tournament could become what this tournament could not sustain -- a limited-field invitational event that has Woods' stamp.

The Hero event, played for years in Southern California before moving to the Bahamas in 2015, will always be special to Woods because the idea was born with the help of his late father, Earl, and dates to 1999, when he was just 24 years old.

But the D.C. tournament was not meant to end 11 years after it began. Like Nicklaus' and Palmer's events, it was supposed to last a lifetime and beyond. Singer and Mike Antolini, who is vice president of championships for TGR, both live in the area, as does a staff of dozens who not only work on the tournament but also on the various foundation activities that come with the massive learning projects the foundation supports.

They clearly expected a long future here, as did Woods, who -- like many -- has to be wondering how it came to this.