Fellow pros support Tiger's Buick absence

GRAND BLANC, Mich. - Tiger Woods remains a fixture at the Buick Open.

The defending champion's face is on the media guide and courtesy vans. His logo is on hats worn by spectators around the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club course. A virtual version of Woods was even scheduled to make an appearance at Detroit's River Days this week for photo ops.

Woods was everywhere but on the course, taking the week off to be with wife Elin and their first child, daughter Sam Alexis Woods, born June 18.

His fellow tour pros don't blame him for missing this week's tournament, which begins Thursday. After all, many of them have experienced the same situation.

"I was taking time off for my first and third (child) and the second one was miscalculated and it wasn't supposed to come when it came and I was away, which I still feel bad about 23 years later," said John Cook, who has spent nearly three decades on tour. "You can't fault someone for a life-changing experience. It's something different. He is obviously very happy for the new chapter in his life."

Woods released the first photos of Sam on Tuesday.

"Yes, he would like to be here, but it depends if he felt she (Elin) was ready for him to leave for a week," said Cook, one of Woods' best friends on the PGA Tour. "It's not like he has 85 people running around his house helping Elin. They're not doing that. They're real people, that's not how they were brought up. They're on their own. When he's ready to play, he'll go play."

The situation has opened up the Buick field.

"This is huge, for the best golfer in the world to be having his first kid and see how things pan out for him over the next two or three years, to see if he plays as much," pro Will MacKenzie said. "He doesn't play that often anyway, does he? He's got a nice little schedule. I love his schedule."

Buick, which heavily advertised Woods on billboards for ticket sales and counts on him attending as a spokesman, understands the circumstances that will keep him away.

"Well, timing's everything and the baby is brand new, only a week old," said Larry Peck, Buick golf marketing manager. "So we fully support his decision to stay home with his wife and with the baby. When the time's right I'm sure he'll play and if that's next week that's fine with us."

Next week is the AT&T National in Bethesda, Md., the tour tournament hosted by Woods. But his participation in the event is still undetermined.