The PGA Tour is now in its sixth week back after the 13-week, coronavirus-induced mid-season hiatus. The restart has not come without its fair share of struggles and readjustments, but overall, most would call the resumption of play a success.
In the midst of the storylines that have dominated the news cycle since golf’s return though, there has been one big name — really, the biggest name — missing: Tiger Woods. That changes this week as Tiger tees it up competitively (the Match II doesn’t count) for the first time since February, where his weekend ended in a whimper that had many questioning the aging star’s health.
Tiger is always selective with his schedule, and even more so in the middle of a public health crisis, but that didn’t stop the constant rumors of where he would peg it up first. Tracking his yacht up the Florida coast had many speculating that the RBC Heritage would host his return, but that week came and went with no Tiger sightings. Hartford and Detroit never made much sense for him to play, leaving Memorial as the obvious choice for his comeback. During his pre-tournament media availability, Tiger explained what went into the decisions for his delayed comeback.
“I just felt it was better to stay at home and be safe,” he said. “I’m used to playing with lots of people around me or having lots of people have a direct line to me, and that puts not only myself in danger but my friends and family, and just been at home practicing and social distancing and being away from a lot of people.”
It’s a sentiment shared by many around the world as we navigate the situation, but it’s even harder to be socially distant when you’re the face of a global sport.
“I’m used to having so many people around me or even touch me, going from green to tee,” Tiger said. “That’s something that I looked at and said, well, I’m really not quite comfortable with that, that whole idea. Let’s see how it plays out first and let’s see how the Tour has played out, how they’ve started, and I feel that I’m comfortable enough to come back out here and play again, and I’m excited to do it.”
In addition to keeping his game sharp at his compound in Jupiter, Fla. Tiger also mentioned using the time off to watch the first five events on TV in order to scout golf’s new reality.
“It was more of watching golf to see how it is now, see what our near future, our reality is and our foreseeable future is going to be,” he said. “Some guys are used to taking the cap off after every round and doing handshakes. That’s just part of the traditions of the game. That changed. Contacts, how close can I be to my caddie. Those are all different questions that the players are trying to figure out on the fly as we’re trying to get back into our season and participate in our sport at a high level again.”
Tiger is paired with Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka for the first two rounds. Tee times will be released Tuesday evening.