News & Opinion

Yes, Tiger Woods is back, but when will we see him on PGA Tour?

Tiger Woods host Genesis Invitational
Tiger Woods looms as a big question and perhaps a bigger answer to so much of what remains unknown about the PGA Tour as the season restart nears.

Hawk & Purk look at the first 3 sites for the PGA Tour’s return from what will be a 3-month suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic and expect Woods, despite his solid play in the recent exhibition, won’t be back until July, at the Memorial

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Purk: Lost in all the back-slapping about the Sunday match with Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady was how well Tiger played. How did he look to you?

Hawk: Michael, I can’t remember the last time I saw Tiger not spend any time playing from the rough. Medalist has wide fairways, and they’re bordered by palmettos and waste areas, not expanses of Bermuda rough. The other guys were spending a lot of time in the trees, and, ironically, the only times Tiger went there was to help others look for their golf ball. Tiger played really well and struck the ball beautifully. He didn’t have all that good a putting day and still looked very impressive.

Purk: I did have a little concern. Amanda Balionis asked him during the warmup how his back was, on a scale of 0-10. He smiled that smile and said, “Ten isn’t what it used to be.” He’s always been guarded about his physical condition, but if his back felt fine, I think he would have said so. During the match, his swing was pretty smooth, maybe too smooth. He looked like he was bunting it much of the time. Maybe it’s just me.

Hawk: Which leads to the question: When will we see him again?

Purk: I don’t think we’re going to see him again until the Memorial Tournament, the middle of July. He likes to play where he’s had success, and there’s nothing on the schedule between now and the Memorial that’s likely to ring Tiger’s bell.

Hawk: It’s unfortunate. I was at first thinking, maybe wishfully, that these no-spectator tournaments would appeal to Tiger. When he plays, there are so many people out there that it’s hard for him to deal with it all. It would seem he’s more in his natural habitat when few people are around. The Memorial makes sense as an over/under for when he comes back. It would be nice if he played in Connecticut, which is the third week, or even Colonial, just to prove to everyone that golf is back.

Purk: I hear what you’re saying about the no-spectator events, but I can’t help but believe that deep down in his heart, where he’s not going to let us look, he really likes all the spectators. Remember when he won the Tour Championship in 2018 and he was coming down the last fairway on Sunday? All the fans were allowed in the fairway, like they do at the Open Championship, to follow him in. He reveled in that atmosphere.

Hawk: I think he loves the attention. Who wouldn’t? He appreciates it more now, though. At the 2000 Open Championship, he looked a little agitated. But he was only 24 then. There weren’t enough people at the Tour Championship to hurt him. He’s now grasped that he’s an iconic figure, and all that comes with it.

Purk: Having said all that, it only points to Memorial as the place we’ll see him next. The Memorial is the tournament we keep hearing about that’s making a plan to have spectators. It could be the first event on the new schedule with fans, in some form or another. But it is Tiger, after all. As predictable as he’s been for the last 25 years, he might surprise us.

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