Tiger Woods spotted at his Mexico course as Tour pros share first impressions

Aerial view of El Cardonal golf course in Mexico; Tiger Woods in golf cart at El Cardonal

Tiger Woods made an appearance at his El Cardonal course ahead of the 2023 World Wide Technology Championship.

Left: Courtesy; Right: @PGATour on X

For the very first time, a PGA Tour event will be held at a Tiger Woods-designed golf course this week. And on Tuesday, Woods was spotted at the course taking in the sights as his fellow pros played practice rounds.

This year the tournament in question, the 2023 World Wide Technology Championship, moved to El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which happens to be the first course that Woods’ TGR design team completed back in 2014. The course was named in honor of Woods’ alma mater Stanford University, whose mascot is the Cardinal.

On Tuesday, Woods was spotted riding around in a golf cart at the event, surveying the course and watching a few shots. The 15-time major champion isn’t in the field, but he was at least dressed to play, decked out in a black Nike golf hat, pants and golf shoes, as well as a pink Nike golf shirt.

The course is a beautiful design with rumpled fairways and ocean views on most holes. Woods designed it with the overarching goal of making a course that all types of players would find fun and challenging.

The big question is how the course will hold up under tournament conditions with some of the best golfers in the world picking it apart.

A few of those pros shared their first impressions during pre-tournament press conferences on Tuesday.

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PGA Tour winner Keith Mitchell admitted it was the “first Tiger Woods golf course that I’ve ever played,” before providing a detailed assessment of the challenges El Cardonal presents.

“There’s a couple holes that have a lot of risk-reward,” Mitchell said. “A couple par-5s, the back of the greens are serious trouble, so you’ve got — if you have a good number, you can maybe hit it to the back flag and get a chance for eagle, but if not, you’ve got to play conservative and try to get up and down from the front of the green, so it adds a lot of risk-reward.”

When asked if he could give the course a grade, Mitchell demurred given that he’d only played nine holes so far. But he did reveal that it was already clear that having “a lot of options” was a key design tenet for Tiger’s team.

“I know Tiger likes options,” Mitchell said. “It gives you a lot to think about going into greens, whether if you want to use the slope or go straight at the hole, whether you want to play conservative and have an easy up-and-down or try to push it to the back of a green or to a tough flag and try to make birdie. It gives you a lot of options.”

Maverick McNealy, who is making his PGA Tour return this week after missing significant time to injury, shared similar thoughts after playing El Cardonal for the first time.

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“You kind of see a lot of parallels between the way Tiger plays golf and the way he designed this golf course,” McNealy said. “You have to think about it, play smart. Quintessential second-shot golf course and no short-siding.”

McNealy predicted that strategy, and not driving distance, will be the key to contending at Tiger’s course.

“My first impressions is that it’s not very tight off the tee, it’s very wide, but if you miss, it’s a severe penalty. You don’t need to murder the ball,” McNealy said. “Playing it 290 off the tee, 300 off the tee is going to be just fine. And then you really have to think about where you leave the ball into the greens. There’s one side that’s obviously not OK.”

First impressions are one thing, but we won’t truly know how well Tiger’s course works as a PGA Tour host until the first shots are hit this Thursday, as Mitchell hit on in his press conference.

“We all know we can judge [Tiger] on his golf, the best if not the best ever to play golf. So we’re going to see if his golf course architecture can hold up as well.”

As for when Tiger will make his own return to the PGA Tour, we are still in the dark, though many people are predicting Woods will choose to lace up his spikes for real at either the PNC Championship or his Hero World Challenge event in December.

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