Tiger Woods withdraws from Safeway Open
October 10, 2016
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- October 10, 2016
- Tiger Woods said his "game is vulnerable" and is not ready to compete on the PGA TOUR.
Tiger Woods’ highly anticipated return to the PGA TOUR was put on hold Monday after he withdrew from this week’s Safeway Open citing concerns about the state of his game.
Woods also plans to withdraw from the Turkish Airlines Open in November but remains hopeful of playing in his Hero World Challenge in early December in the Bahamas.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Woods said, “After a lot of soul searching, and honest reflection, I know that I am not yet ready to play on the PGA TOUR or compete in Turkey. My health is good and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be. It’s not up to my standards, and I don’t think it would be up to yours.”
Woods may be hoping to avoid a repeat of the first part of his 2015 season, when he made five starts and shot 80 or above in three of his 16 rounds during the stretch. Other than a top-20 finish at the Masters, he either missed the cut or was far behind the contenders in his other starts. He also had to withdraw from one tournament due to back problems.
Last Friday, Woods committed to the Safeway Open, the season-opening event of the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season held in Napa, California. It was expected to be his first start in a TOUR event since the 2015 Wyndham Championship 14 months ago.
Since then, Woods underwent microdiscectomy surgery, followed by another procedure, his third surgery in 20 months. He spent the 2015-16 season rehabbing and then working on his game.
Two weeks ago at the Ryder Cup, he was one of the vice-captains for the winning U.S. team, and was just announced as a captain’s assistant to Steve Stricker for the 2017 Presidents Cup team.
“When I announced last week I was going to Safeway, I had every intention of playing, or I wouldn’t have committed,” Woods explained in his statement. “Unfortunately, however, lately my practice has been limited. I spent a week with the US Ryder Cup Team, an experience and honor I wouldn’t trade for anything. I practiced this past weekend at Stanford, but after a lot of hours, I knew I wasn’t ready to compete against the best golfers in the world. I will continue to work hard, and plan to play at my Foundation’s event, the Hero World Challenge, in Albany.
“I know this is disappointing to you, but no one is more disappointed than I am. I always want you to be proud of our association, so that’s why I will continue to strive to be able to play tournament golf. I’m very close, taking my game from the range to the course is the final hurdle, and with your continued support, I know I’ll get there.”
With Woods' withdrawal, first alternate Max Homa received a spot in the field that includes such notables as Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and Paul Casey -- the latter having posted top-five finishes in the final three events of the FedExCup Playoffs.
Safeway Open host and World Golf Hall of Fame member Johnny Miller was disappointed to hear the news but said he understands Tiger's position.
"It's hard being Tiger Woods. It really is. Especially if he can’t back it up with semblance of the old Tiger Woods," Miller said in an interview with the Golf Channel. "Everybody expects him to come back and play like he did in the year 2000. That's just not going to happen. ...
"There is so much pressure when you can’t deliver like you used to. But you’ve got to go back in there and go back to basics and try to make cuts and try to get the joy of the game back again. It is 10 times harder for him being Tiger Woods. But then again, when much is given, much is expected.
"I hope that he can find a little joy in the game again and feel good about teeing it up.”
In early September, Woods announced he was hopeful of playing the Safeway Open, along with the event in Turkey and the Hero World Challenge, which is run by the Tiger Woods Foundation.
He said at the time that his rehab had reached the point he was comfortable of making plans but warned that “I still have work to do. Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go.”
Notah Begay told the Golf Channel that he spoke with Woods on Monday. He said he was suprised to hear that his friend was withdrawing.
"He just didn't feel like his game was where he wanted it to be to be competitive," Begay said.
"I just think it might be the in-between shot. ... As we all know, it is not just a succession of full shots that are required on the PGA TOUR. You have to have the feel shots, the in-between shots. Just not having had enough time to get the reps in prior to would be my guess based upon my conversations with Tiger.”
The 14-month absence from TOUR competition is the longest in Woods’ career.
In 2008, eight days after capturing the U.S. Open on basically one leg, Woods underwent surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee. He was sidelined for eight months.
Woods’ last win on TOUR was in 2013 at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. It was his fifth win that season. But since then, he’s made just 23 starts on TOUR as he’s battled back issues.
He missed the Masters in 2014 for the first time in his career due to back problems, undergoing microdiscectomy surgery for the first time. He missed three months but returned later that summer.
In missing the entire 2015-16 season, Woods did not play in any of the four majors for the first time in his career. He remains four shy of equaling Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 professional major wins.
Charles Howell III, taking a break from hitting balls on the range on Monday afternoon, said he was excited to see Woods back in action, just like everybody else.
“It’s unfortunate, right? But only Tiger knows Tiger,” Howell said. “But it does show how much people were looking forward to him coming back and playing. But yeah, he’ll be back soon.
Howell agreed that it was unfortunate for Safeway, which sponsors the tournament and had seen a sharp spike in ticket sales in anticipation of Woods’ return.
“Obviously, but I think even golfers, his fans, like to see the guy play golf, and what he does for our sport and for our game,” Howell said. “But he knows himself better than anybody and he’ll know when to come back.”
Carl Pettersson said he found out that Woods had withdrawn when he got to the range on Monday morning.
The five-time PGA TOUR winner said he hadn’t seen Woods since his last start at the 2015 Wyndham Championship so it was hard to comment.
“He moves the needle more than anybody and it would have been great for the tournament,” Pettersson said. “It would have been a cool vibe to start the year off. It’s a shame. I wish he would have played but … I really don’t know what else to say.”
PGATOUR.COM's Helen Ross contributed to this story.