Two weeks after the PGA Tour season ended, the next one starts Thursday and for some fans it can’t get here soon enough: Tiger Woods is returning to golf.
Woods made it official Friday by entering the Safeway Open in Napa, California, the first event on the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule. He has said a month ago that he hoped to play the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort, but had until Friday afternoon to officially commit.
Woods last played on Aug. 23, 2015, at the Wyndham Championship in a last-minute bid to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. A month later, he announced a second surgery on his back, and then a third one a month after that.
Even through other operations on his knee, the 40-year-old Woods has never spent this long away from competition. And never has the No. 767 player in the world attracted so much attention.
“Silverado is the perfect course for him because it is so straightforward,” tournament host Johnny Miller said last month when Woods indicated he hoped to play. “I think he’ll love being back in California. If he can get a good first round … just get some confidence and springboard from there.”
Woods plans to play the Turkish Airlines Open next month and then his Hero World Challenge the first week in December, giving him three tournaments in roughly three months to end the year.
The Safeway Open, in its first year as title sponsor, has a little extra star power next week. Phil Mickelson already has announced he will play, and PGA Tour officials are considering putting them in the same group for the opening round.
“I’m sort of glad I’m not there that week. … It’s going to be a bit of a circus,” Rory McIlroy said last month. “But it’s good to see him back and healthy, and it will be exciting to see him back on the course again.”
Wood sounded defeated last December in the Bahamas because he had no timetable for a return and no idea how long it would take his back to heal. He said at one point, “For my 20 years out here, I think I’ve achieved a lot, and if that’s all it entails, then I’ve had a pretty good run. But I’m hoping that’s not it.”
He played five holes with Mark O’Meara when Woods opened his golf course outside Houston. He also had one awkward moment at Congressional during a promotion for the Quicken Loans National. He was asked to hit a shot over the water to the par-3 10th hole, and put all three of them in the water.
Woods said last month his rehabilitation was to the point where he was comfortable making scheduling plans.
He was at the Ryder Cup as an assistant captain, mostly walking as he spent time with Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. Woods this week was named an assistant to Presidents Cup Captain Steve Stricker, though Stricker said he would like to see Woods playing on the team.
Woods hasn’t won since the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational, the 79th title of his PGA Tour career. That left him three short of the record held by Sam Snead.
For the third time in the past six years, the U.S. Open will go on without three-time champion Tiger Woods.
Woods said on his website Tuesday that he is not ready for tournament competition and will skip the U.S. Open next week at Oakmont, along with his Quicken Loans National the following week at Congressional.
“While I continue to work hard on getting healthy, I am not physically ready to play in this year’s U.S. Open and the Quicken Loans National,” he said. “I am making progress, but I’m not yet ready for tournament competition.”
Woods first missed the U.S. Open in 2011 when he was recovering from leg injuries. He missed in 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2 while recovering from his first back surgery a week before the Masters that year.
He has not played since a tie for 10th in the Wyndham Championship in August. Woods had two more surgeries on his back after that, in September and October.
Meanwhile, his absence fueled speculation about when he might return, even though Woods repeatedly has said he does not know. Woods played five holes when he opened his golf course in Houston, and also was seen swinging a club at a junior clinic in South Carolina and at his media day at Congressional — three swings from 100 yards to the 10th green, all of them in the water.
Jack Nicklaus said last week at the Memorial he expects Woods to return.
“I think Tiger would have liked to have played this week,” Nicklaus said. “He’s just not ready.”
Since Woods was exempt from having to qualify because he won the 2008 U.S. Open, his spot will be filled by an alternate from the 12 sectional qualify sites, though it was not clear which one. The USGA compiles an alternate list that is based on how many spots each qualifying site was allocated and the strength of each field in determining the list.
When qualifying ended on Tuesday, and with Woods saying he will not play, 149 of the 156-man field for Oakmont was set.
The USGA set aside six spots for any players who crack the top 60 in the world ranking after this week. One of them will be William McGirt, who now is No. 44 in the world after winning the Memorial. If fewer than five more players get into the top 60, the extra spots also go to the main alternate list.
But if a player who qualified has to withdraw, his spot is taken by the alternate from his qualifying site.
Meanwhile, speculation on when or if Woods returns this year will resume after two weeks. The Greenbrier Classic, which he has played twice in the last four years when not dealing with injuries, is July 7-10. That’s one week before the British Open at Royal Troon.
The PGA Championship is two weeks after Troon, followed by the Travelers Championship, the John Deere Classic and the Wyndham Champion. Woods has never played the Travelers Championship and has not played at John Deere since he was a 20-year-old rookie.
After that, he would not be eligible for any PGA Tour event for the next six weeks during the FedEx Cup and Ryder Cup.
As was reported earlier Wednesday, the PGA’s annual golf tournament at Donald Trump’s Trump National Doral course is relocating to Mexico City. The PGA said Tuesday night — and repeated again Wednesday — that it was leaving South Florida because it was unable to find a title sponsor to replace Cadillac.
Reached for comment, golf legend and North Palm Beach resident Jack Nicklaus was frustrated with the idea of the tournament leaving South Florida.
“I am disappointed for Doral and the city of Miami,” he told the Post. “Both have been a staple on the PGA Tour schedule, as well as my own, since my rookie year in 1962.”
Yet the 18-time major winner does see some positives in the tournament moving south of the border.
“I have always believed that golf is a global game,” he continued, “and I have made it a lifelong mission to travel the world to introduce and grow the game by either playing it or designing golf courses. So I am delighted that an event with the significance of a World Golf Championship is coming to Mexico City, and I think it is a huge positive for the Tour and the game itself.
“My only hope is that golf played at its highest level will soon return to Miami and Trump Doral.”
The 76-year-old Nicklaus recently praisedTrump, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, on “CBS Sunday Morning,” saying he likes “what Donald has done … he’s turning America upside down. He’s awakening the country.”
Nicklaus said he anticipates voting for Trump in November.
The annual PGA golf tournament at Donald Trump’s Trump National Doral, the course just west of Miami, will be relocating to Mexico City, according to various reports Wednesday.
Butch Buchholz, who ran the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump’s course, told the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson that the PGA informed him Tuesday night that it was leaving South Florida because it was unable to find a title sponsor to replace Cadillac.
This news comes approximately six months after the PGA said it would reevaluate the future of the tournament at Doral — which has been held in Doral since 1962 — because of Trump’s controversial comments about Muslims and other non-native Americans.
Trump addressed the situation Tuesday evening on Fox News:
“I mean, I just heard that the PGA Tour is taking their tournament out of Miami and moving it to Mexico as an example. They’re taking it — it’s at Doral, it’s at — they used one of my places. They’re moving their tournament, it’s the Cadillac World Golf Championship. And Cadillac’s been a great sponsor, but they’re moving it to Mexico. They’re moving it to Mexico City which, by the way, I hope they have kidnapping insurance. But they’re moving it to Mexico City. And I’m saying, you know, what’s going on here? It is so sad when you look at what’s going on with our country.”
As ESPN points out, it is unclear what effect if any Trump’s “politically charged comments on the campaign trail had any impact on the move. In January, the PGA Tour pledged its commitment to the tournament and Miami but said it would review the future upon completion of the March event.”
According to the Golf Channel, the relocated tournament will be played in 2017 at the Club de Golf Chapultepec outside Mexico City and will be sponsored by the Grupo Salinas conglomerate.
Trump released this statement Wednesday afternoon:
“It is a sad day for Miami, the United States and the game of golf, to have the PGA Tour consider moving the World Golf Championships, which has been hosted in Miami for the last 55 years, to Mexico. No different than Nabisco, Carrier and so many other American companies, the PGA Tour has put profit ahead of thousands of American jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for local communities and charities and the enjoyment of hundreds of thousands of fans who make the tournament an annual tradition. This decision only further embodies the very reason I am running for President of the United States.”
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is scheduled to speak during a news conference at 4:30 p.m. ET at the Memorial Tournament.
The WGC-Cadillac Championship hosts the world’s top golfers, with only 50 invited golfers allowed to participate. Adam Scott won the tournament in 2016, and past winners include Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson.
“Jason is resting comfortably and in good spirits,” his agent, Justin Richmond, said in a statement. “He is scheduled to have more tests this weekend. We know he appreciates the concern from so many people in the PGA Tour family who have reached out.”
“The 42-year-old golfer had a stent inserted Saturday for what he says was 99 percent blockage of a major artery. In a text exchange with [NBC Sports], Bohn says the blockage was in his left anterior descending artery — known as the ‘widow maker’ because it could lead to a major heart attack.”
Bohn, a Pennsylvania native who now resides in Atlanta, experienced chest pains Friday after finishing his second round at PGA National. According to Honda Classic officials, he sought the assistance of an on-site medic and was advised to take an ambulance to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center for further testing.
There, he was diagnosed with a mild heart attack, though he was considered stable.
According to a tournament statement, his in-laws are with him, while his wife is home with their children.
Though he was forced to withdraw from the Honda Classic, Bohn had made the cut, shooting rounds of 71-72 to put himself at 3 over par heading into the weekend.
McIlroy, a part-time Palm Beach Gardens resident, offset four birdies with a double bogey, triple-bogey and bogey on his way to a 2-over 72 Friday and missed the cut for the second straight year. McIlroy uncharacteristically declined media requests for interviews after his round.
McIlroy has failed to reach the final 36 holes of only four tournaments in the past five years, three of which have been in the Honda Classic. He shot 73-74-147 in the first two rounds last year to miss the cut, and also withdrew midway through the second round of the 2013 Honda, later blaming the decision on a toothache.
McIlroy won the Honda Classic in 2013 and tied for second after reaching a four-man playoff in 2014. His only other missed cut in the past four years came at the 2013 British Open.
McIlroy, who also shot a 72 Thursday, was 5-over on two par-3 holes Friday. His tee shot on No. 15 found the water, resulting in a double-bogey. On No. 5, his approach from 30 feet from the pin rolled down a hill and also wound up in the water. After taking a drop, he chipped on and two-putted for triple-bogey.
Former Dwyer High student Daniel Berger, who finished second last year, also missed the cut.
The 17th hole on the Champion course at PGA National is the final hole of the notoriously challenging three-hole section known as the Bear Trap. Those three holes have claimed many victims over the years.
But not Alex Cejka on Day 1 of the 2016 Honda Classic.
Cejka aced the 177-yard par 3 in the glorious afternoon sunlight, setting off a roar from the crowd surrounding the small green.
Despite the late hole-in-one, the first round was an up-and-down affair for Cejka, who hovered around the projected cut line and stands at 1-over-par after an eagle-birdie finish to his day. Check out the full leaderboard here.
The 17th is a par 3 that has been lengthened to 190 yards over the water and into a very small green that is bunkered left. This is a par 3 that will present a lot of problems; it always has in the past.
Welcome to the 2016 Honda Classic from the Champion course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens!
We at The Palm Beach Post will be here all day long with scores, news, updates and more from Thursday’s Round 1 of the tournament.
2:50 p.m.: Through eight holes, stars Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler have moved into first place and a tie for second, respectively. Garcia is currently four under par, while Fowler is a stroke behind him.
1:35 p.m.: Shane Lowry finishes his first round with a birdie and an eagle on Holes 17 and 18. He is tied for first with George McNeill at three-under 67
1:20 p.m.: Phil Mickelson wraps up his first round with a score of 1-under 69, good for a tie for sixth.
12:10 p.m.: George McNeill made a par putt on the 18th hole to cap off a steady 3-under-par opening round, good for the clubhouse lead. McNeill had six birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey on the par-4 11th. David Lingmerth, Ricky Barnes and Cardinal Newman High product Brooks Koepka are tied for second, one shot back. Phil Mickelson is in a large group two back.
11:52 a.m.: George McNeill has moved into a tie with David Lingmerth atop the leaderboard at 3-under par. McNeill has completed 17 holes and is trying to become the first clubhouse leader of the week. Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka are tied for second, one shot back.
11:30 a.m.: David Lingmerth continues to lead at 3 under through 12 holes on his round. He is being chased by a pack of four golfers at 2 under, including Phil Mickelson and Cardinal Newman product Brooks Koepka (through 12 holes) and Ricky Barnes (10 holes). Jupiter resident Ernie Els is at 1 under. Nicholas Thompson is at 10 over through 17 holes.
11:15 a.m.: Phil Mickelson suffered a bogey on the par-4 second hole, his 11th hole of the day, to fall into a tie for second, one shot behind leader David Lingmerth. Mickelson is tied with Cardinal Newman High product Brooks Koepka, Ricky Barnes and George McNeill.
10:56 a.m.: Phil Mickelson and David Lingmerth continue to lead the tournament at 3 under. Palm Beach Gardens resident Brooks Koepka has birdied three straight holes (17, 18 and 1) to move to 2 under.
10:40 a.m.: Phil Mickelson and David Lingmerth are tied for the lead at 3 under. Mickelson, who started on the back nine, birdied the par-5 18th hole to complete his first nine holes with four birdies and a bogey. He began the front nine with a par. Lingmerth was playing the front nine while Mickelson was on the back and like Lefty he birdied his last hole before making the turn.
10:25 a.m.. Ricky Barnes’ solo hold on the lead was short. He bogeyed the sixth hole and is now in a seven-way tie for first at 2 under with Sean O’Hair, Brendon de Jonge, Retief Goosen, Phil Mickelson, David Lingmerth and Paul Casey.
10:15 am.: Ricky Barnes has sole possession of the lead at 3 under through five holes after George McNeill suffered a double-bogey at the par-4 11th hole to fall to 1 under. Phil Mickelson, who started on the back nine, is playing No. 18 and is at 2 under, locked in a seven-way tie for second.
10 a.m.: Ricky Barnes (through five holes) and George McNeill (through 10) continue to share the lead at 3 under par. Phil Mickelson is at 2 under through eight holes. He started on the back nine. Six golfers are tied at 2 under, including Sean O’Hair, Brendon de Jonge, David Lingmerth, Robert Streb and Paul Casey.
9:55 a.m.: Ricky Barnes has birdied the par 3 fifth hole to move into a tie for the lead with George McNeill at 3 under.
9:50 a.m.: George McNeill continues to lead at 3 under par as he plays his 10th hole of the day. There is a six-way tie for second that includes Phil Mickelson, Brendon de Jonge, David Lingmerth, Robert Streb, Paul Casey and Ricky Barnes. Several stars are over par early, including Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els and Adam Scott, all at 1 over. Jonas Blixt, who was among the leaders early, has fallen to 3 over after back-to-back bogies at 10 and 11.
9:34 a.m.: George McNeill has made the turn at 3 under and leads a group of seven golfers, including Phil Mickelson, by one shot. McNeill ran off a string of birdies at Nos. 3-5, bogeyed No. 6 but then made his birdie putt at No. 9 to move out front.
9:24 a.m.: Phil Mickelson started the Bear Trap with a birdie and Shane Lowry bogeyed the par-3 seventh hole, helping create a logjam at 2 under in the Honda Classic. Mickelson and Lowry are tied with George McNeill, Jason Dufner, Russell Knox and David Lingmerth. After making a birdie on two of his first three holes, Mickelson, who started on the back nine, bogeyed the 14th but rebounded with a birdie at No. 15 to get to 2 under.
9 a.m.: Shane Lowry is at the top of the leaderboard after a birdie on the fourth hole has him at 3 under. George McNeill, Jason Dufner, Phil Mickelson and Russell Knox are at 2 under.
8 a.m.: There is a six-way tie at the top of the leaderboard at the Honda Classic this morning. Phil Mickelson birdied his first hole and is tied with Cameron Tringale, George McNeill, Daniel Summerhays, Emiliano Grillo and Branden Grace at 1 under.
7:30 a.m.: Daniel Summerhays birdies his first hole to take the lead at the 2016 Honda Classic
7:15 a.m.: Jonas Blixt and Sean O’Hair are at even par through the two holes. Hudson Swafford rebounds from his opening double-bogey to post the first birdie of the tournament.
7 a.m.: The first scores are in from round one of the Honda Classic. Jonas Blixt and Sean O’Hair par their first holes. Blixt went off the first tee, O’Hair off the 10th. Hudson Swafford and Chad Collins double-bogey their first holes.
6 a.m.: Here are the groups and tee times for Rounds 1 and 2. Remember, things get started pretty early both days: The first groups tee off at 6:45 a.m. But they’re long days, since the final groups don’t get out on the course until 1:35 p.m.
Please stick with us as we’ll be updating this post all day with news from on and off the course. And you can always keep track of the updated leaderboard.