A THOUSAND OAKS, California – Tiger Woods is just not making any planning recommendation. Except it is the obvious match, resembling a significant championship or occasions that profit his basis, there’s not often any prior affirmation. Years of jokes and proof will be offered as proof.
So it was fairly a shock this week when Woods dropped “Houston” in his reply about competing for subsequent month’s Masters on this most uncommon 12 months.
Perhaps he knew what we noticed on Thursday, a man whose recreation is not sharp and who wants match work and who would not have sufficient time to suit every part in earlier than the Fall Masters. A 76 in Thursday’s Zozo Championship opening spherical that put him out of competitors was not what he was as much as.
As a result of coronavirus pandemic, the Masters was postponed from April to November 12th to 15th. As an alternative of the standard lead by way of Florida and the match play occasion simply two weeks beforehand, three relocated Asian swing occasions will probably be held, adopted by a match in Bermuda and one other in Houston earlier than the Masters.
It is unusual for everybody, however particularly for Woods, whose schedule this time of 12 months would most certainly solely embrace this week’s Zozo championship, which he gained a 12 months in the past in Japan and which will not be again till January.
However his Masters protection is looming, and if any match issues to the 15-time principal champion at this level, it’s the place his legacy was cemented without end along with his 2019 win, giving him a fifth inexperienced jacket.
The preparation for this has confirmed attention-grabbing as Woods solely attended one occasion final month, a missed reduce on the US Open. Earlier than that, there was a principally disappointing collection of tournaments because the pandemic break, through which he had his greatest end result within the PGA Championship with 37 factors.
“I believe my plan is simply to play and observe,” Woods mentioned on Tuesday. “I do not know if I will play Houston or not.” I am not enjoying subsequent week and we’ll see how this week goes and decide from there. ”
That might be the Vivint Houston Open from November fifth to eighth within the week earlier than the Masters. Woods has by no means performed the Houston Open. And as an expert, he has by no means performed the week earlier than the Masters.
Two issues play a task:
Even earlier than the primary spherical on Thursday at Sherwood Nation Membership, Woods should have had the sensation that his recreation wouldn’t be sharp sufficient for the Masters with out additional match rounds. He knew he wasn’t prepared, and the best way he performed at Sherwood did nothing to dispel that notion.
However he additionally must really feel adequate bodily so as to add a match within the week main as much as a significant. Woods regarded high quality on Thursday, really a bit of slimmer than normal. He had some stiffness points on the US Open final month, and it may have been worse than he’d allowed it to be. All the pieces was easy right here besides his rating.
Woods is not the one to rule out scheduling alternatives like he did this week. Often, if Woods had been requested about such a situation in any respect, he would both say no probability or he can be distracting. Nobody who has been round him for any size of time through the years has ever thought that Houston can be a chance.
Whereas enjoying in Houston within the week main as much as Augusta continues to be unlikely, it is clearly greater than a fleeting thought.
As well as, Augusta Nationwide’s availability for native gamers is restricted within the week earlier than the Masters. Woods is contemplating a go to subsequent week as an alternative, which led to the potential of the Houston Open.
Throughout Woods’ return to the sport since rebooting after the pandemic shutdown, his recreation was rusted. In 5 earlier occasions he was by no means nearer than eight strokes behind 36 holes in a match. On the US Open, he was 12 years outdated and went dwelling. He hasn’t performed since then.
The entire time there was dialogue that he needed to play extra. In fact, that is simple to say and never really easy for Woods at 44 to deal with quite a few bodily points, together with the fused again that results in stiffness.
For instance, would not it have made sense to play final week’s CJ Cup at Shadow Creek? Woods is aware of the Las Vegas venue, and heat climate and a 78-player discipline would have been an ideal occasion for him. Add this week’s title protection at Sherwood – one other course he is aware of, with one other 78-player no-cut discipline – and that is assured eight rounds with two extra weeks to organize for the Masters.
“My recreation is unquestionably higher than the US Open,” he mentioned on Tuesday.
He may need felt higher, however Woods’ recreation actually wasn’t higher. The par 5 are the easy proof. Three blocked tees on these 9 holes resulted in two bogeys and one double bogey. It was the primary time in his PGA Tour profession that Woods had performed as much as three par 5s in the identical spherical over par.
For many of Woods’ profession, he made a dwelling carving par 5. No surprise he was so profitable at his personal Sherwood charity occasion, which he gained 5 instances. However on Thursday he solely made a single birdie and performed these holes in three over par. His 76 is the best in one in every of his 49 rounds of competitors right here.
Finally, Woods may simply select to do what he is at all times completed – work on his recreation at dwelling the week earlier than the Masters and skip match golf.
But when Thursday’s spherical proved something, then his instincts about his personal recreation had been right.