In its five-year existence, the PGA Tour's Fall Series has been likened to playing baseball games after the World Series. The tournaments attract little interest outside of those playing in them, and for good reason: Few of the marquee names in the sport, if any, take part.
That will change in a big way come October when former No. 1 Tiger Woods tees it up at the Frys.com Open outside of San Jose, Calif., a Fall Series event that suddenly found itself in the limelight Monday.
Woods announced the stunning move on his website, making the decision to play one of the events (now four) following the Tour Championship for the first time since the PGA Tour's schedule was set up in this fashion starting in 2007.
Aside from the AT&T National, which he hosts (the tournament proceeds benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation), this marks the first time Woods is adding a tournament he has never played since 2004, when he headed to the Wachovia Championship (now called the Wells Fargo Championship).
"It's not totally unexpected, but we are overjoyed," said Duke Butler, a retired PGA Tour executive who is now the president of the Frys.com Open. "It's our goal starting today to have him enjoy a long-term relationship with Frys."
From Butler's standpoint, the commitment is not completely out of nowhere because he's been working on this for several years, going back to 2007 when he served for one year as exeuctive director of Woods' tournament at Congressional.
But it still comes as a shock to most outsiders, who never envisioned Woods teeing it up in a Fall Series event -- although recently it became clear that U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples very much wanted him to do so.
Last week Couples acknowledged that he had already assured Woods of a spot on his 12-man team that will take on an international squad in Australia in November. Since Woods did not qualify for the PGA Tour's playoffs, he was going to be unable to earn one of the 10 automatic spots. Couples has two at-large selections to make Sept. 26 and caused plenty of consternation by putting Woods on the team a month early.
"There is no reason for me to wait to pick Tiger," Couples said. "Tiger is the best player in the world forever."
But he's dropped to 38th in the world now, and in the two-year Presidents Cup points standings, he is 29th -- well behind two-time tour winner Keegan Bradley, for example, who just won the PGA Championship.
Couples had long insisted that his captain's picks play the Australian Open the week prior to the Presidents Cup. Woods signed up. And Couples insisted that Woods add a tournament someplace prior to heading overseas. This would seem to take care of that requirement as well.
"All of this started long before Fred said he wanted Tiger to be playing in the fall," Butler said. "We'd like to think we got Tiger due to Frys.com efforts, although it was clear he was going to have to play somewhere. The fact of the matter is I've been working on this since July 5 of 2007."
That's when Butler knew he was headed to the tournament that is now played at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif. He kept up the lobbying efforts with Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, all through this year.
"Duke has been a friend for years," Steinberg said in an email. "I knew him at his days at the Tour and we have remained in contact since. He introduced me to John Fry and their team and I have enjoyed a great relationship with them all. However, Tiger decided to play this particular event because of Fry's commitment to the Tour and the game of golf, schedule, location."
Woods said on his website that the "tournament fits my schedule perfectly." It also is located about 60 miles from where Woods attended college at Stanford -- and the football team has a home game that weekend against Colorado.
Perhaps more important in terms of his golf, Woods will get back between the ropes for the first time since missing the cut at the PGA Championship three weeks ago. Excluding the Players Championship, from which he withdrew with injury after just nine holes, Woods has played just eight worldwide events this year. The 71-time PGA Tour winner is going on two years without a victory.
He will have gone eight weeks between tournaments by the time he shows up for the Frys.com Open, which last year was won by Rocco Mediate.
"We think 132 players walked away as a PR agent last year. It's a pretty place," Butler said. "And Rocco being defending champion ... he's a megaphone to the universe. I think that helped spread the word. We built some momentum last year."
Not only is Woods making a rare start outside of his normal sphere of tournaments, but he's letting the world know early. Woods typically does not officially commit to PGA Tour events until the days leading up to the commitment deadline, which is the Friday prior at 5 p.m. ET.
In this case, he's given the tournament more than a four-week head start.
"The best thing about this is we know about it and can prepare," Butler said. "We've already had a tremendous reaction. We brought in about 10 people to answer the phones today [Monday], and they are busy. It's fun and busy."
Of the other Fall Series events, Woods might have considered the Justin Timberlake tournament in Las Vegas, where he won his first tournament as a pro in 1996. Or the Disney tournament, where he has won twice, including his second tour title in 1996. The other Fall Series event is in Sea Island, Ga., the hook there being that 2012 Ryder Cup captain Davis Love is the tournament host.
You could have made an argument for or against any or all of them, but Woods has chosen the Frys.com, and suddenly the Fall Series -- at least one of the events -- is not so obscure.