AUGUSTA, Ga. – Plans are in the works for Tiger Woods to play a series of televised matches in Asia, with the hopes of one taking place this fall that would coincide with the PGA Tour’s three-tournament swing in the region.
Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, told ESPN.com that the likely first destination is Japan, where the golfer would possibly take on another player or invite a series of players for a one-day competition, format to be determined. And it would not have any impact on future matches that involve Phil Mickelson.
“We are in pretty deep discussions about doing that and Japan would be ideal to do the first one,” Steinberg said at Augusta National, where Woods is competing in the Maters. “It might not be a traditional head to head match. It might be something more unique.
“We haven’t put together what the field will look like. How big would the field be? What type of format would they play? The exact date? We’d like to do it around the first-ever PGA Tour event in Japan.”
A prominent player mentioned as being part of the competition is Hideki Matsuyama, who is the highest-ranked Japanese player.
The ZoZo Championship debuts Oct. 24-27 at Narashino Country Club outside of Japan and is part of a three-tournament Asia swing on the official PGA Tour schedule that includes the CJ Cup in South Korea and the WGC HSBC Champions in China.
Steinberg did not say that Woods would participate in any of those official tournaments, but acknowledged that it is a possibility.
“We would not disrespect a PGA Tour event,” he said. “There’s a chance we could do something in another market in Asia.”
As for playing in the fall – which Woods has not done in several years – Steinberg said: “He’s gotten behind (in FedEx Cup points) in the past. Because of his health, his age and everything, he’s being very smart and strategic about when he’s going to play. But playing in one of those would help him not get behind. And there seem to be more and more events that are being added. So yes it could help.”
When the PGA Tour changed its schedule this year to conclude in August, it added more events at the front of its schedule that will begin in mid-September and run through November, with 11 tournaments possible. Skipping all of them and not playing until late January, as has been Woods’ typical schedule, puts him 15 tournaments into the season.
The Asia matches are part of Woods’ endorsement deal with Discovery for which he has been providing content to GolfTV, an entity that does interviews and other things with Woods for a market that presently does not include the United States. Discovery pays Woods and also has a rights deal with the PGA Tour. Steinberg said it is “unclear” if any such event would be available for viewing in the United States.
“That’s a conversation we have to bring the PGA Tour into,” he said. “We wouldn’t do anything without their approval.”
Discovery CEO David Zaslav revealed some of the plan last week during the CAA World Congress of Sports. Zaslav said the Japan match has already been decided and that they would “play around with the format,” but Steinberg said nothing is official.
Woods and Mickelson had a separate deal with Turner Sports for a pay-for-TV match that took place on the day after Thanksgiving, with Mickelson winning $9-million as he beat Woods in extra holes. Steinberg said talks are still ongoing about when and where another match would take place, and if it would involve other players.
“There are a lot of factors that go into it but this does not affect whether or not we do the next iteration of Tiger and Phil, whatever that might look like,” Steinberg said. “That’s different domestic deal we’ve constructed with Turner. We still think (the Friday following Thanksgiving) is a great day. We think that’s a date we could own.”
Complicating matters this year for Woods is his Presidents Cup captaincy for the United States. His own foundation’s Hero World Challenge is traditionally played the week following Thanksgiving in the Bahamas, with the Presidents Cup to follow a week later in Melbourne, Australia.
Due to the travel logistics, the plan – not yet official – is to have the Hero tournament end on Saturday, Dec. 7. The Presidents Cup is Dec. 12-15. Steinberg didn’t rule out any match involving Mickelson to be played closer to the East Coast instead of Las Vegas.
Steinberg said Woods’ future schedule beyond the Masters has yet to be determined.
Given past preference and the new schedule, Woods is likely to play the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte in three weeks; followed two weeks later by the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black; followed two weeks later by The Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio; two weeks later is the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
It is unclear if Woods will play at all between the U.S. Open and The Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. The WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational follows a week later, and then after just one week, a three-tournament run of FedEx Cup playoffs begins.