LOS ANGELES – Tiger Woods remains as unpredictable as ever.
Just when it seemed like he’d found a comfortable rhythm with his swing, body and schedule, Woods threw a curveball, opting to forego next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship.
The perplexing decision prompts many questions with no clear-cut answers – at least not until Woods meets with the media Saturday afternoon at Riviera.
After recording his worst score of the season (73) Friday to sit nine shots off the 36-hole lead, Woods was asked directly how he was feeling physically. He mostly talked around it, saying instead that his game hasn’t been “as sharp as I need to be.” This week he has myriad hosting obligations, but that only partly explains why he’s practiced sparingly. If he wanted to practice, he would – the tournament benefits more by him playing well than being pulled in too many directions.
Sitting out the first WGC event of the calendar year also has ranking implications. Ranked eighth in the world, Woods is essentially passing up guaranteed world-ranking points because he won’t exceed the minimum 40-event divisor. Why does this matter? Because there was a scenario, however unlikely, in which he could have returned to No. 1 in the world had he won in both Los Angeles and Mexico City.
It also impacts the Olympic rankings, and it’s now fair to wonder about Woods’ Tokyo aspirations. There are nine Americans ranked inside the top 15 in the world; only the top four will qualify for the U.S. team, a squad that Woods (currently sixth) has said that he’d like to be a part of. This was an opportunity wasted, though at least he won’t lose any more ground as both Brooks Koepka and Patrick Cantlay are bypassing the WGC event, too.
It’s also unclear what this means for the rest of Woods’ schedule. Only once in 2019 did he complete consecutive events. That was this two-week stretch, from Los Angeles to Mexico City. After that tournament he revealed that he had a strained neck, keeping him out of Bay Hill before The Players. Late in the summer, he suffered a strained oblique that forced him out of The Northern Trust before the BMW Championship.
In the short term, at least, it seems unlikely that Woods would play his hometown Honda Classic the following week – especially with Bay Hill (where he’s an eight-time winner) and The Players in consecutive weeks. More answers will come next Friday, when another commitment deadline passes.
Of course, all of this schedule handwringing may be for naught. Last year, Woods played only four events before the Masters. How’d that turn out?