Woods back in ac­tion next week as USPGA looms

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By James Cor­ri­gan golf cor­re­spon­dent

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

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