Woods with­draws, say­ing his game is still ‘vul­ner­a­ble’

For­mer cham­pion also pulls out of Turk­ish Air­lines Open next month

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

The come­back of Tiger Woods is go­ing to have to wait at least two more months.

Three days be­fore Woods planned to end his long­est break from golf at the Safe­way Open, he abruptly with­drew Mon­day and said his game was not ready to take on PGA Tour com­pe­ti­tion.

“My health is good, and I feel strong,” Woods said on his web­site. “But my game is vul­ner­a­ble and not where it needs to be.” And so the wait­ing con­tin­ues. Woods first an­nounced Sept. 7 that he planned to play three times by the end of the year, start­ing with the Safe­way Open at Sil­ver­ado Re­sort in Napa, Calif. He of­fi­cially com­mit­ted to the tour­na­ment Fri­day.

The buzz was build­ing for his re­turn, with word leak­ing that he would be paired with Phil Mick­el­son and de­fend­ing Sil­ver­ado cham­pion Emil­iano Grillo. In­stead, Woods with­drew from the Safe­way Open and the Turk­ish Air­lines Open, sched­uled for Nov. 3-6, af­ter what he de­scribed as “a lot of soul-search­ing.”

He said he plans to play at his Hero World Chal­lenge from Dec. 1-4 in the Ba­hamas.

“When I an­nounced last week I was go­ing to Safe­way, I had ev­ery in­ten­tion of play­ing, or I wouldn’t have com­mit­ted,” Woods said.

He was at the Ry­der Cup two weeks ago as an as­sis­tant cap­tain and said the ex­pe­ri­ence “in­spired me even more to play.” Woods said he prac­ticed the past sev­eral days in California, where he also went to Stan­ford’s foot­ball game against Wash­ing­ton State.

“But af­ter a lot of hours, I knew I wasn’t ready to com­pete against the best golfers in the world,” he said. “I would like to apol­o­gize and send my re­grets to Safe­way, the Turk­ish Air­lines Open, the fans in California and Turkey and those that had hoped to watch me com­pete on TV. This Sil­ver­ado Re­sort, Napa, Calif. Thurs­day through Sun­day TV: Golf Chan­nel isn’t what I wanted to hap­pen, but I will con­tinue to strive to be able to play tour­na­ment golf.

“I’m close, and I won’t stop un­til I get there.”

Woods last played Aug. 23, 2015, at the Wyn­d­ham Cham­pi­onship. Two shots out of the lead go­ing into the fi­nal round, he closed with a 70 and tied for 10th. A month later, he an­nounced he had had another op­er­a­tion on his back. He had a third back surgery in Oc­to­ber. He missed all four ma­jors for the first time in his ca­reer.

Johnny Miller, the tour­na­ment host at Sil­ver­ado, said Woods pledged he would re­turn to the Safe­way Open next year if he is able. The Safe­way Open is the first tour­na­ment in the PGA Tour’s wrap­around sched­ule.

“It is a huge im­pact on our tour­na­ment, the Safe­way Open,” Miller told Golf Chan­nel. “Ob­vi­ously, I wish Tiger the best. Ev­ery­body was so ex­cited in the golf world and here in North­ern California. I know there is a lot of pres­sure on Tiger af­ter 14 months away from pro­fes­sional golf. The ex­pec­ta­tion and ner­vous level has got to be al­most like when he played in his first L.A. Open when he was a kid.

“It is hard be­ing Tiger Woods. It re­ally is,” Miller said. “Es­pe­cially if he can’t back it up with sem­blance of the old Tiger Woods. And ev­ery­body ex­pects him to come back and play like he did in the year 2000. That is just not go­ing to hap­pen. He has got to break the ice some­time. I hope he picks the right spot.”

No­tah Be­gay, Woods’ clos­est friend in golf and a for­mer Stan­ford team­mate, said the with­drawal was sur­pris­ing based on what they had talked about at the Ry­der Cup. Be­gay took a week off from his broad­cast du­ties at NBC Sports at Hazel­tine to drive Woods’ cart.

Woods was at Peb­ble Beach on Mon­day for a pri­vate event to ben­e­fit his foun­da­tion.

MAR­CIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Tiger Woods had planned to end his long­est break from golf at the Safe­way Open.

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