DORAL, Fla. – It was as if Geraldo Rivera himself had bounded into Trump National Doral with Al Capone’s safe in his arms; the hype was that overwhelming.
Would Tiger Woods tee it up? How’s Tiger’s back? Have you heard anything about Woods?
Even The Donald himself made his way through the lobby of his latest toyland and asked of a PGA Tour player, “Is Tiger playing?” The player smiled and suggested that Woods would tell The Donald before he told his colleagues and what came out of the conversation was this – Woods had a ribbon-cutting commitment at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in front of the “Tiger Woods Villa” at this resort that Trump has been re-designing for more than a year.
Ah, it is one thing to walk off the course at the Honda Classic, five holes shy of a full week’s work; it is another thing entirely to WD from a ribbon-cutting ceremony. So shock of shocks, Woods appeared for the photo-op, gold scissors and all, then made his way to tell a jam-packed press conference that “I feel better, how ‘bout that?”
If folks were honest, they might have replied, “ho-hum,” for there never appeared to be much doubt that Woods would tee it up in this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship. All signs had pointed to his walk-off at the 13th hole in Sunday’s final round of the Honda Classic as being a cautionary move, precipitated by his miserable score and a desire not to push the health issue a month before the Masters.
It never felt like The Players Championship in 2011, when Woods called it quits midway through and didn’t play again until the Bridgestone in August.
More likely, this situation rekindles thoughts of 2012 when Woods withdrew in Round 4 of the Cadillac Championship right here, yet returned after a week off to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Not that one would promote Woods’ chances at victory this week, because the truth is, it’s a brand-new Blue Monster – hardly the same stage on which he’s won four times, including last year. Gil Hanse’s alterations and redesign include longer holes, rebuilt greens, added bunkers, different angles, more water in play, so drastically different look-wise that Woods found himself shaking his head when caddie Joe LaCava reported in after a scouting mission.
“Joey came down here and tried to describe some of the holes and I’m like, ‘What, there’s water on that hole?’ So there are a few changes I need to go see,” said Woods.
Woods said his preparation for the tournament was going to consist of walking the course Wednesday afternoon, just chipping and putting. Since leaving the Honda on Sunday afternoon – he shot 40 on his front nine – Woods said all he did at home was hit some balls, but “the furthest ball I hit, I think, was 60 yards.”
Yet he expressed no apprehensions about his decision to play. For several days he’s received treatments “non-stop,” he said.
“It’s been a long couple of days . . . trying to get everything calmed down, first of all, get all the inflammation out and from there, getting the firing sequences right again.”
Now 38 and his list of ailments having grown considerably in recent years, Woods would seemingly be in position to be cautious. But he said otherwise.
“My treatments have been fantastic,” he said, explaining that he’s been taking anti-inflammatory medication in and around constant treatment.
“It’s annoying being poked and prodded all the time, but it’s got me to a point where I can do this today, and tomorrow I’ll be able to hit more full shots and go all-out.”
Woods went on to explain that he left the course at PGA National Sunday “because I couldn’t twist.” He’s not a doctor, nor does he play one on TV, but he sure sounded like one when he talked of the fascia getting tight and “pulling on different parts of the body and it’s like cellophane.” As for the back problem, Woods shrugs. “It comes and goes.”
So here Sunday, gone Wednesday. That’s the story Woods put forth before heading onto The Blue Monster to see what’s in store for him come Thursday.
Certainly, it remains to be seen how this all unfolds at this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship. But as the days fall off the calendar there is this curiosity: You can count Woods’ competitive preparation for the Masters not in tournaments, but in holes, just 121 on the PGA Tour.
It doesn’t appear to be the way to fuel momentum, but then again, with Woods, one never knows.