Tour Confidential: Is Tiger Woods skipping the Wells Fargo Championship an ominous sign?

April 29, 2019

Check in every Sunday night for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week we discuss Tiger Woods skipping the Wells Fargo Championship, what that means for his PGA Championship prospects, slow players on Tour going public, embarrassing golf shots and more.

1. In a surprising move, Tiger Woods decided to skip this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, although his agent, Mark Steinberg, said it is not due to injury (a video from earlier in the week appeared to show Woods limping). “[Tiger is] still digesting and appreciating what happened two weeks ago,” Steinberg told ESPN’s Bob Harig. Woods’ next start appears to be the PGA Championship on May 16-19. Does Woods’ decision to skip Quail Hollow, and go from the Masters to the PGA, change your opinion on his chances in the second major of the season?

Sean Zak, associate editor (@sean_zak): Doesn’t change my opinion on the PGA but it does interest me. The major season is so jam-packed now that hopes of seeing him play elsewhere, like Minneapolis or Detroit, seem futile. That’s sad, even if it’s smart.

Josh Sens, contributor (@JoshSens): Well said, Sean. Then again, given what he’s done, watching Tiger in anything less than a major almost seems anticlimactic. The historic hunt is back on, and it’s once again the most compelling story in golf.

Dylan Dethier, associate editor (@Dylan_Dethier): Last year, Woods made a few semi-surprising starts, starting with the Valspar. That seems like it won’t be the case this year — like Zak says, that’s sad for the Midwest swing. He’s generally always played two weeks before a major, where possible, so this is intriguing. But the guy has played plenty of competitive golf now; I think it’s okay that he won’t get any more reps in.

Josh Berhow, senior editor (@Josh_Berhow): If the guy wants to soak in No. 15 a little more, he deserves it. Also, how about this — what if him skipping Quail Hollow makes me even more confident in his PGA prospects? It just tells me Tiger is happy with where his game is and is comfortable taking that to Bethpage Black, which I’m sure he’s got a great game plan for already.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: I think he prepares more mentally than physically in this incarnation. I would think it improves his chances to win there.

2. Woods won’t play the Wells Fargo Championship, but he did recently commit to the PGA Tour’s inaugural ZOZO Championship in Japan in October. It’s quite the haul for Woods, who said at the end of last year he will be limiting his schedule and hasn’t played in as many overseas events in the last couple of years. Woods will also be in Australia for the Presidents Cup in December. Thoughts on Woods’ latest international commitment?

Zak: Anytime I see Tiger play overseas in a non-major, I see dollar signs. Regardless of who is sending those dollars and which direction they’re flying in, that’s what I see. It is a good thing.

Sens: No doubt. This is all about the $$$. As for any effect on Woods’ health or game, it strikes me as a non-factor. Last I checked, his air travel does not involve cramped seats in the back of an airplane. He goes to bed. He wakes up in Tokyo. Big deal.

Berhow: If he’s skipping other PGA Tour events here and there (like Quail Hollow) then it opens up his schedule for a little more international action. Don’t be surprised if he pulls double duty around the ZOZO. Discovery’s president told the Sports Business Daily last month that GolfTV is about to launch more head-to-head matches with Woods. He said one was already planned for, you guessed it, Tokyo.

Dethier: The scope of these international matches — and what they do to The Matches, ft. Phil Mickelson — will be an intriguing subplot. Maybe we’re headed toward a dystopian future where Woods plays majors and matches only! (This is a joke, for now, as long as he continues to try to accrue Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup points…) But I do think he has enjoyed these international friendlies over the years, and there’s certainly plenty of interest from the Asian markets. This is way more fun than stacks of cash in Vegas, from my perspective.

Bamberger: It obviously belongs in the category of get it while you can.

Tiger Woods is skipping the Wells Fargo, meaning his next start will likely be the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods is skipping the Wells Fargo, meaning his next start will likely be the PGA Championship.
Getty Images

3. Edoardo Molinari, fed up with slow play on Tour, decided to take a step toward fixing the problem and publicly shame the offenders on Twitter by releasing the European Tour’s most recent timing summary. Should Molinari be applauded for bringing the issue to the surface, or did he commit the ultimate Tour pro no-no by releasing this information about his colleagues?

Zak: It should be applauded by all. Sorry, Louis Oosthuizen, if you didn’t want your slow-play issues to be dragged out in front of anyone, how about you do something about it?

Berhow: Media members and casual fans of course love to see this, but I doubt this move gained Molinari friends inside the locker room. But here’s the kicker: this won’t change anything. It’s the same old story. Courses are long, courses are hard and guys are playing for major paychecks. Nothing will change because they still don’t have a reason to speed up.

Sens: Not just applause. A standing ovation. Josh is right that a single tweet is not going to change anything. But if enough players of Molinari’s gravitas get actively behind the idea of speeding up play, something will eventually have to give. The glacial pace of golf is the absolute worst thing about the game, from the pro level on down. What I never hear discussed in all this talk of players competing for so much money is this: Does playing at an agonizing pace actually improve performance? I’d like to see some numbers one way or the other. I suspect we’d find that playing with a little dispatch is not a bad thing for scoring either.

Dethier: Praise be to whistleblower Edoardo! But slow play is a funny thing. I’m actually not sure how much it tangibly bothers fans at large, except when players in contention on Sunday are particularly pokish, like J.B. Holmes. So I guess it’s hard for me to get fired up about this because I have so little belief that anything will be done to improve it.

Bamberger: Let the sunshine in! I think it works, or helps. Ben Crane got himself up to speed by way of ridicule. It can only help.

4. Ladies European Tour player Carly Booth received so much backlash about a tweet promoting her sponsorship with Golf Saudi that she removed the post altogether. Did she deserve this kind of heat? And who should receive the blame: Booth or her management team?

Zak: As a human who should be aware of the news/vibe/connotations around a sponsor decision, yeah she’s deserving of some heat. But as we all know, there are multiple people involved with this decision. They all probably expected this, even Saudi Golf. So…they still went for it. Booth AND her management team should receive blame.

Berhow: Yeah, both deserve some blame, and at some point she should have realized it would get some blowback, and I think she did (to a degree) with the qualifying text she wrote in her post. But that’s also why you pay your management team, to manage you. They did not do that here. At least not well.

Sens: Hell hath no fury like social media outrage. The punishment on Twitter is almost always more extreme than the crime. But in this case, Booth and her team couldn’t have really been surprised by the reaction, could they? Both bear some responsibility, but more falls on Booth’s management. As the saying goes, they had one job…

Dethier: On one hand, plenty of PGA Tour stars took much more money from the Saudi government to go play and rep the nation’s golf properties just a couple of months ago and faced less extreme outrage. On the other hand, they weren’t explicitly (just implicitly!) endorsing Golf Saudi on their equipment. Once big-time dollar signs are involved, I’m all for accountability. If you’ve got a good reason to sign with Golf Saudi, be ready to defend it.

Bamberger: Exactly, Dylan. Once she signed it became her job to promote golf there. It’s a shame, because golfers often seem to think they can’t be agents of change, but they can.

5. A reader tipped us to a recent spotting and brief interaction he had with former Ryder Cup star Anthony Kim, whose circumstances surrounding his disappearance from the game have created a Big Foot-like myth gobbled up by curious golf fans. Kim hasn’t played on Tour since 2012. Why are golf fans still so intrigued by him, and is there any chance we’ll see him on Tour again?

Zak: Because he was damn good. Not just good enough to win. Good enough to be dominant. Ten years ago, Tour Confidential panelists would have predicted four or five majors for him, I’d guess. And he was fun, obviously. But the fleeting talent is what we loved most.

Berhow: He was a stud and he brought flare and swagger to a game that lacked it then way more than it does now. His lavish off-the-course lifestyle portrayed him as more of a movie star than a golfer, and that’s what people love about the athletes they idolize: what do they drive; where do they live; what do they own? AK had no problem splurging. No, he won’t be back, but we’ll enjoy these rare sightings for more years to come.

Sens: He won’t be back. But it makes every bit of sense that people are captivated by the story. It has everything you want in a narrative: compelling central character with all sorts of tantalizing what-exactly-happened and what-ifs.

Dethier: Golf has so few true, pure mysteries that AK’s legend will only continue to grow as we get further away from his time on Tour. He seems to be doing well, and golf fans can continue to mythologize his career, plus wonder about what could have been. Sounds like a win-win.

Bamberger: For starters, nobody entering his or her prime walks away, ever. His play was loaded with style and swagger. He had no country club in him. He might have challenged Tiger. He went Garbo. Outstanding.

6. Playing in the PGA Tour Champions’ Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf, Kid Rock shanked a shot that knocked a fan’s drink out of her hand. What’s the most embarrassing shot you’ve hit in front of an audience?

Zak: Playing alongside USGA CEO Mike Davis, Golf Digest’s Max Adler (who is a very good player) and one more on #Play9Day, I pumped my first tee shot right of right and OB. “Breakfast ball,” Davis said, at 4:30 p.m. This one went right of the first one. Also OB. I walked up to Adler’s ball (in the fairway) with my tail between my legs and dropped one by him. Great first impression!

Berhow: I had a tee time with my dad and brother at a local par-3 course outside of town one Sunday afternoon. I was in fourth-grade, and right before I teed off I noticed the entire faculty of my elementary school watching me from the terrace 25 feet away. They had a staff outing that started behind us. “Show us how it’s done, Josh!” my teacher, Mrs. Roberts yelled. Terrified, I popped it up so high I could have caught it four feet in front of me. I was too proud to take a mulligan.

Sens: On the first tee at Royal Portrush, playing in the 2004 Senior British Open Pro-Am. Tom Watson standing directly behind me. Fierce wind. Slanting rain. A skull-job straight into the gorse. Watson, no doubt, has zero memory of it, but I’ll never forget it. As they say in Westeros, “Shame! Shame!”

Dethier: Oh man, this just brought back a flood of memories, all of them bad. But back in my playing days, probably the worst single moment came at PGA Tour Latinoamerica Q-School in the spring of 2015 in Sebring, Fla. The finishing hole there was a par-3 with an island green, and on the third day of the event the members gathered ‘round with a keg. I was hovering at the edge of contention and needed a strong finish to have a hope at gaining status the following day — that all went away when I rinsed a 7-iron left of the green. The worst part was that the members, who were making land-or-sea bets, cheered uproariously as my dreams disappeared into the water.

Bamberger: First tee, with Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum and the runner Jay Hass, in a charity thing, a slice of epic proportions with a backswing that was Nick Price at warp speed.