This was the week golf fans were supposed to learn a lot of answers about Tiger Woods. What equipment would he have in the bag? How’s the golf swing? Does he have the chipping yips? Instead the list of questions only grew longer when Woods surprised everyone on Monday by withdrawing from the Safeway Open.
So what the heck happened in the three days since Woods officially committed to playing in the PGA Tour’s season opener? According to Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, who spoke to our Tim Rosaforte, Woods’ change of heart came after putting his preparation into overdrive and realizing his game wasn’t ready.
“He played a lot of holes of golf, and the game just wasn’t there,” Steinberg told Rosaforte. “[He] didn’t quite get all the holes in prior to the Friday decision, but he really wanted to play this weekend. You have to commit the Friday before. He flew Joey [Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava] down to Florida. He flew him out to California with him. They were going through their prep for a tournament. Going through the weekend, playing as much golf as he did, it just wasn’t to the standard he wants it to be.”
As jarring as the announcement was, Sternberg said Woods’ withdrawal was less confounding than it would be if he wasn’t physically ready to play. Instead the agent suggested Woods just needed more time.
“If he were to call me and said, ‘Hey Mark, my back just can’t withstand this. I’ve got to pull out.’ That would be much more concerning than, ‘OK, Mark, my game’s not there yet.’ ”
While Woods’ game isn’t there yet, Steinberg insists his client’s motivation is -- in particular after spending a week as a Ryder Cup vice captain.
“Hanging with those guys at the Ryder Cup and living it every second of the day -- he loves that more than people would know,” Steinberg said. “That’s what drives him. It’s not the commercials, and it’s not the appearance fees. If it were, then he’d not play this week and go and have his first tournament in Turkey [The Turkish Airlines Open].”
Instead, Woods won’t play in that either. And the main reason why is not what you’d think.
“That would be an inappropriate thing to do,” Steinberg said of Woods returning at the European Tour event. “It’s my opinion, and Tiger and I talked about it and we agreed. He’s been out for 15 months. It’s not appropriate to come back to a non-PGA Tour sanctioned event.”
So we got some answers there. Woods was close enough to playing that he flew his caddie out to California with him. Being at the Ryder Cup really revved him up to play. And the reason why he also pulled out of playing in Turkey next month was out of respect to the PGA Tour.
However, Steinberg’s words don’t make Woods’ decision on Monday any less shocking or disappointing. And there’s still plenty to talk about when it comes to Tiger. We discussed what it all means for the 14-time major champ and where we might see Woods next on the latest edition of the Golf Digest Podcast. Have a listen: