The golf world collectively rejoiced when Tiger Woods formally committed to the Safeway Open last Friday, but tournament host Johnny Miller insists that he still had his doubts - and for good reason.
Woods abruptly withdrew from the season-opening event on Monday, just days after committing to the field, delaying a comeback that will now reach at least 16 months. According to Woods, the decision had everything to do with the "vulnerable" nature of his game, and not his injured back, but Miller openly questioned the state of Woods' health during Golf Channel's opening-round telecast from Napa, Calif.
"You know, he was getting out of that cart pretty gingerly (at the Ryder Cup). Nobody talked about that," Miller said. "When he got in and out of that cart, he was a little - he didn't look like he was jumping out and saying, 'Hi, guys.' So I'm not so sure how healthy he really is."
Miller is a part-owner of Silverado Resort & Spa, which has hosted the event since 2014. He received plenty of positive feedback after Woods committed, but the two-time major champ said that he still tempered his own expectations.
"I had so many texts saying, 'Congratulations, Tiger's coming.' And I would reply every time like, 'Yeah, it's great, but I'll believe it when he's actually putting the peg in the ground Thursday morning, and is ready to go and hits a shot and is not grimacing,'" Miller said. "So I wasn't convinced that he was going to actually tee it up. I wanted to believe it, but my intuition said I'll believe it when it happens."
Woods has not played on the PGA Tour since the 2015 Wyndham Championship, and he is now targeting a return at the 18-man Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December. Whenever he returns to life inside the ropes, Miller suggested that Woods should ease back into things.
"I think he needs to have realistic goals and build his confidence," Miller said. "Your psyche and your confidence are so fragile, and he just doesn't have anything to fall back on except for old memories. It's tough."