Fifteen-time Major winner Tiger Woods returns to top competition this week for the first time since the PGA Tour’s return to golf insisting he will miss the energy of not having any spectators in attendance at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio,
Woods has not competed in a regular Tour event since February when he ended at the foot of the field in hosting the Genesis Invitational at the Riviera club near Santa Monica.
He did compete in a ‘made for TV’ exhibition match at his home Medallist Club in Florida while this week will also be Woods’ second event of 2020 after sharing ninth place earlier in February at the Farmers Insurance Open.
And it’s an understatement to say much has happened since the reigning Masters Champion walked onto the first tee with a Tour scorecard in his back pocket.
And one of many questions asked of Woods ahead of this week’s Memorial, an event he’s won on five occasions, was what will be his reaction to having no fans on course, especially for a golfer who has competed all his life surrounded by supporters.
“It’s going to be a lot more difficult,” he said.
“I just think that the energy… even it felt weird as I was watching on my computer at home, like 14, when Collin (Morikawa) last week hit the ball on the green there, and granted, they’ve never had the tees up there during the Memorial event, but if they were and had that same situation during a Memorial event, to have someone drive the ball on the green that close to the hole, I mean, that whole hillside would have been going nuts.
“Then to see J.T. (Justin Thomas) make that putt, he’s screaming, but no one else is screaming. And then when Collin makes it, normally — he didn’t have that much of a reaction, but the whole hillside on 18 would have just erupted.
“I’ve been there when they’re throwing drinks towards the greens and people screaming, high fiving, people running around, running through bunkers. That’s all gone. That’s our new reality that we’re facing. Those guys, J.T. and Collin, both how they played down the stretch and separating themselves and the shots they hit, they got into the world of playing against each other and got into that world fans bring to these holes and these situations, not to have that is very different, very stark really.”
So for a player who has been used to a large spectator following, and with virtually every shot Woods has played on TV video tape, the question has to be asked how does the current World No. 14 adapt without that ‘energy’.
“I think for me in particular, I’m going to have to just put my head down and play,” he said.
“But it’s going to be different, there’s no doubt about it. For most of my career, pretty much almost every competitive playing round that I’ve been involved in, I’ve had people around me, spectators yelling, a lot of movement inside the gallery with camera crews and media.
“Watching the players play over the last few weeks, that hasn’t been the case, and that’s very different, and for the players that are a little bit older and that have played out here for a long time and have experienced it, it is very different.
“For some of the younger guys it’s probably not particularly different. They’re not too far removed from college or they’ve only been out here for a year or two, but for some of the older guys it’s very eye-opening really.”