Woods makes PGA Tour return this week at Genesis Invitational Former world No 1: ‘I don’t know what the reaction’s going to be’
Tiger Woods has admitted this year’s champions dinner at Augusta National will inevitably involve awkward moments as he comes face-to-face with LIV rebels.
Speaking ahead of this week’s Genesis Invitational, where he will make a first playing appearance since last summer’s Open Championship, Woods implied he fully intends to tee up at the Masters in April. That week will include a dinner for which LIV’s Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Charl Schwartzel and Sergio García will, like Woods, receive invitations as past recipients of the Green Jacket. Woods has been staunch in his defence of golf’s ecosystem against the LIV plan. The others find themselves ostracised from the PGA Tour. Mickelson was a notable absentee as Woods received honorary membership of the Royal & Ancient Club in July.
“The champions dinner is going to be obviously something that’s talked about,” Woods said. “We need to honour Scottie [Scheffler, the 2022 champion]. Scottie’s the winner, it’s his dinner. So making sure that Scottie gets honoured correctly but also realising the nature of what has transpired and the people that have left, just where our situations are either legally, emotionally, there’s a lot there.”
On how he will treat LIV players in Georgia, Woods said: “I don’t know what that reaction’s going to be. I know that some of our friendships have certainly taken a different path, but we’ll see when all that transpires. That is still a couple months away.”
There will be excitement about near-confirmation that Woods will be in the Masters field. Two years have passed since he was seriously injured in a car crash in California, since which the 47-year-old has only been able to dabble in tournament golf. He spoke of analysis aimed at “seeing what we need to do to get ready for Augusta” when the Genesis concludes. Woods admitted he has not walked 72 holes over four days in 2023. “I’ve got to pick and choose what I’m going to be playing in,” said Woods. “It will be very limited. So I’ll put all my energy into those events.”
Woods’s attitude was typically bullish when asked about his immediate prospects against a field which includes Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm et al. “I’m excited to go out there and compete and play with these guys,” said the 15-times major winner. “I would not have put myself out here if I didn’t think I could beat these guys and win the event. That’s my mentality. If I wasn’t ready to win at this level … I am very rusty, but I’ve come off a rusty situation before and have done well.
I know this golf course. I know I haven’t had a lot of success on this golf course, but I knew what to practise for.”