- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2018

After a couple of top-five finishes, Tiger Woods suddenly looks like he could be a force in golf again. And when Woods is relevant, so is The National, the annual Washington region PGA Tour event hosted by Woods‘ foundation.

Woods announced Monday that he will play in the 2018 tournament, set to return June 28 to Maryland’s TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, where it was held last season. Kyle Stanley is the defending champion.

“I am really looking forward to being back in the D.C. area this summer,” Woods said in a news release. “As a two-time champion of this event benefiting my foundation, The National has always been a special event for me.”

Woods established the tournament benefiting the TGR Foundation in 2007. It has always been played in the Washington metro area, most often at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. Woods won The National in 2009 and 2012 and will appear in its field for the first time since 2015.

The former No. 1 player in the world is returning to form after a few years of injuries and off-the-course issues. He only competed in one tour event in 2016 and 2017 combined, but he has played in five events in 2018 and earned consecutive top-five finishes in the past two. He tied for second at the Valspar Championship and tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Woods, 42, last won on tour in 2013. Woods‘ return to competitive form is good for the sport at large — NBC Sports reported its TV ratings for the Sunday rounds of the Valspar Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational were the highest for any nonmajor golf event since 2015.

But his commitment to The National carries special importance to the Washington golf community, as a lack of sponsor support clouds the event’s future.

The National used to be known as the AT&T National and the Quicken Loans National, but Quicken Loans did not renew its contract after last season and the tournament does not yet have a new title sponsor.

It is one of three PGA Tour events on the 2018 schedule without a title sponsor. The Houston Open, which tees off Thursday, and the Fort Worth Invitational also have no corporation signed on for naming rights, a significant source of funding for the operation of a golf tournament.

“We continue to work with the PGA Tour to identify a title sponsor for The National,” tournament director Mike Antolini said in a statement to The Washington Times. “Right now we’re focused on making the 2018 National the best experience for the community.”

The National was first supposed to return to Congressional in 2018 and 2020, but the PGA Tour opted out of its agreement with the course in September because of the lack of a title sponsor.

In the fall, tour commissioner Jay Monahan fueled speculation that the tournament may not last in Washington, or on the tour schedule at all.

“We need to conclude those discussions with Quicken (Loans), but you also need to maintain your flexibility because whether or not Quicken steps up, we need to have all of our options in the event that a sponsor is looking in a different direction — or we’re going to take the tournament in a different direction,” Monahan said.

The National released a redesigned tournament logo Monday that incorporates three red stars in an apparent nod to the stars of the Washington, D.C. flag.

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