Woods remains on the list of competitors for next week’s Masters until he tells the committee he’s officially not playing.
We are about to embark on another Tiger Watch, this one seemingly filled with more hope than reality but one that cannot be dismissed until Tiger Woods says he’s not playing in next week’s Masters.
Perhaps he loves the drama of making his supporters suffer through the idea that he could play at Augusta National, but more likely it’s his desire to not rule anything out until he absolutely must do so. And he won’t do that until he exhausts all possibilities.
Despite what would appear to be the overwhelming difficulty facing him in playing next week as he recovers from injuries he suffered in a car crash last year, Woods has yet to remove his name from the Masters competitors’ list. He’s right there alongside 85 other players — five will be added Monday via the Official World Golf Ranking criteria — who are on the Masters website.
That doesn’t mean he is playing. The Masters does not remove competitors from the list until the players tell them to do so. And it might just be that Tiger is holding out all hope that he can somehow be ready to compete in his first official tournament in 17 months.
But a since-removed Instagram video emerged of him practicing at The Medalist in South Florida over the weekend, and along with other murmurings and trial balloons alone with no official word from him … well, the possibility still exists.
Since speaking publicly in December for the first time since his Feb. 23, 2021 car crash, again at the PNC Championship where he played a 36-hole exhibition with his son, Charlie, while riding a cart, and then last month at the Genesis Invitational, Woods made it clear he had a long path back to competition.
“I was very limited in what I could do there,” Woods said of the PNC while speaking publicly the last time on Feb. 16. “Being out here on Tour, you get exposed. And that’s the beauty of this sport, you get exposed. There are not carts and you have to work your way around it, you have to be fit enough to be able to do this sport at a high level. You have to practice at a high level to come out here and win and I have not done any of that.”
Woods said that nearly six weeks ago. So, has enough progress been made in that time? He laid it all out and there’s a lot of ground to cover. Walking. Walking 18 holes. Walking 18 holes and playing 18 holes and standing around for hours. And then doing it the next day. And fitting in the practice required. And doing it for four days.
Is Woods ready for that? It seems quite the reach.
But perhaps Woods, for the rare time, has lowered expectations. Maybe he is not fully prepared, but still wants to try. Who could deny him that? Who says his game has to be in great shape, with everything else working properly?
If he’s willing to play and deal with being far less than his best, good for him. If his doctors give him the go-ahead and he is comfortable with the mania that will ensue, why not?
Keep in mind, however, that in both 2016 and 2017, Woods took his Masters decision until the final weekend before announcing he would not play. In both instances, he suggested he had left his decision for the end, tried his best to get ready, and didn’t feel it could work. Perhaps more telling, he then did not play the rest of the year until December.
A summer return, maybe at St. Andrews, seems more realistic, if even then. But Woods has surprised us many times. He’s done things we didn’t expect. And it’s possible he has been underselling us this entire time.
Until he says no, we wait to see if he will be at Augusta National in one week.
What Scottie Scheffler has done in the last six weeks is far beyond impressive. Not only has he won three times, but he’s done so on entirely different courses and conditions — TPC Scottsdale at the WM Phoenix Open, Bay Hill Club at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Sunday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship.
The first victory was in relatively benign conditions. The second was at a Bay Hill course that was firm and fast, caused fits and elicited a winning score of just 4 under par. And Sunday’s win, of course, was in a match play format that required four victories in the last two days after advancing out of pool play. That’s three victories in six weeks, a span of 42 days and a rapid rise to No. 1 in the world.
“I’ll believe it when I see it when the world rankings come out,’’ Scheffler said. “I never really got that far in my dreams.’’
Scheffler has long been known to be a star in the making, but it took a little while to get his first win. He lost to Billy Horschel in the final of last year’s Match Play. He was the last man picked by captain Steve Stricker for the 2021 Ryder Cup team. That seems funny now, as Scheffler had a great week, and appears destined to be part of U.S. teams for many years.
Next will come the immense pressure that comes with being among the favorites at the Masters. He has a tie for 19th and a tie for 18th in his two appearances at Augusta National, accomplished with far less fanfare.
What About Bryson?
After being out for seven weeks, Bryson DeChambeau returned at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where he went 0-2-1 and did not advance out of his group. That probably should not be a surprise, and DeChambeau appeared to be fine with just competing and getting in the work.
DeChambeau, who was playing in just his third PGA Tour event of the season, suffered a broken bone in his left hand as well as an injury to his left hip.
“To be honest, I’m very happy and content with the place that I’m at right now, and I feel like I’m progressing in the right direction,’’ DeChambeau said after his tie with Richard Bland on the first day. “There’s a lot of things that people don’t know behind the scenes that I’m very, very pleased about in a very good way.
“My body is healing. And that’s a very positive thing that I’m happy with. (Wednesday) it didn’t all fail. I thought there might be a moment where it got really tired and fatigued, but to be honest it’s still really solid. I’m proud of my hand, proud of my body, proud of my attitude.’’
DeChambeau is entered in this week’s Valero Texas Open as a final tune-up for the Masters, where he was the low amateur in 2016 and tied for 21st but has not been better than a tie for 29th in four appearances as a pro.
He also said he still plans to compete in a Long Drive competition the week following the Masters.
“If it’s dealt with correctly, if I’m progressing positively and not overdoing it every day and having these micro progressions, when I get to Augusta where I’m close to 200 (mph) ball speed again, there’s a possibility that the next week if nothing gives out and it’s structurally stable that I’ll do that,’’ he said.
“I want to do it. I love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do to help grow the sport of it. I know this is where my home is, but at the end of the day I want to expand out and try and give people a little bit of a show, too.’’