Woods back in action next week as USPGA looms
Tiger Woods will finally emerge from his own five-month golfing lockdown when he reappears in next week’s Memorial tournament. The Masters champion announced his return on social media yesterday and, inevitably, sent his adoring sport into its usual frenzy.
Woods, 44, has not appeared in competition since the last round of the LA Open in February, where he finished last of those who made the cut. Back stiffness forced him to withdraw from a couple of events in the weeks after, before the coronavirus crisis sent the PGA Tour into hibernation. “I’ve missed going out and competing with the guys and can’t wait to get back out there,’’ Woods said on his Twitter account.
This will be only Woods’s third tournament of 2020, although he also performed well and proved his fitness in a charity match involving Phil Mickelson in May. There is also the little matter of his record at Jack Nicklaus’s event at Muirfield Village, Ohio – five victories.
With the USPGA Championship, the first major of the year, due to take place next month, Woods is facing a race to be ready. Having begun the year as world No6, he has slipped to 14th and will obviously find a much different scene to which he has become accustomed in his 24 years on Tour, not least the absence of crowds.
As part of the Tour’s health and safety plan, Woods will be “strongly encouraged” to take a Covid-19 test prior to departing from Florida for Ohio and once on-site he will be required to take another before being cleared to practise and play.
However, it is a confused scenario. Muirfield Village is also hosting this week’s Workday Charity Open and in the first round yesterday, three players – Nick Watney, Denny McCarthy and Dylan Frittelli – were allowed to tee off despite having tested positive.
Officials decided to send the trio out in the same group – inevitably labelled “The Covid-19 Threeball” – but whether this assuages others players in the field, including Spain’s Jon Rahm, who, with victory, would replace Rory McIlroy as world No1 – remains to be seen.
In the Rose Ladies Series at Royal St George’s, Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh made history by becoming the first female to win a professional tournament at the famous links. It was her second win in as many weeks.
On that occasion, she saw off Georgia Hall and once again the 27-year-old left the 2018 Women’s British Open champion in her wake. What made Dryburgh’s oneunder 69 all the more impressive was that she not only conquered the nerves of playing alongside Hall and Charley Hull – the world No 25
– who matched Hall’s 70 to finish in a tie for second – but also some tricky conditions.
Royal St George’s was due to stage the Open next week, before it was postponed for a year. Another reason to make this such a special day for the player ranked 221st in the world, who moved to the top of the series’ money list with four events remaining. Dryburgh was planning to fly to the US on Monday to play on the LPGA Tour, but said: “I might be persuaded to stay to try to win the order of merit of this brilliant series”.
New ground: Charley Hull drives off the first tee in the Rose Ladies Series, the first female professional tournament at Royal St George’s