Tiger Woods had five opportunities to jump back on the PGA Tour since play resumed after the COVID-19 hiatus before he finally committed to playing in this week’s Memorial Tournament — which will mark his first competitive round in five months.
Up until now, Woods said Tuesday, he simply wasn’t comfortable competing.
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Given the crowds the 44-year-old frequently draws on Tour, and the fact that the golf world had to figure out how to operate safely amid the global pandemic, Woods wanted to make sure everything was completely safe before resuming play.
"I just felt it was better to stay at home and be safe," Woods said.
"I'm used to playing with lots of people around me or having lots of people have a direct line to me, and that puts not only myself in danger but my friends and family, and just been at home practicing and social distancing and being away from a lot of people.
"Coming back and playing the Tour, in my case over the 20-some-odd years I've been out here... I'm used to having so many people around me or even touch me, going from green to tee.
“That's something that I looked at and said, well, I'm really not quite comfortable with that, that whole idea. Let’s see how it plays out first."
Woods’ worries about the coronavirus are valid, as the pandemic is still raging throughout America. There were more than 3.4 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Tuesday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and nearly 136,000 deaths attributed to it.
The country set a new single-day record on Friday, recording more than 68,000 new cases alone, and has averaged more than 60,000 new cases a day over the past week.
Six golfers, along with several caddies, have already tested positive too.
No fans a bizarre scenario for Tiger
While he was consistently drawing the biggest crowds each day regardless of how he’s playing, Woods isn’t going to have to worry about fans anymore this season — as the Tour has prohibited them through the rest of the year as a safety precaution.
That, though, provides its own set of challenges. Woods said Tuesday he doesn’t think he’s ever played in a competitive tournament without at least a few fans following him.
“There's nothing to feed off of energy-wise. You make a big putt or make a big par or make a big chip or hit a hell of a shot, there's no one there,” Woods said.
“That's what the guys are saying now, that it's a very different world out here, not to have the distractions, the noise, the excitement, the energy, the people that the fans bring. It's just a silent and different world.”
Woods hasn’t played on Tour since The Genesis Invitational in February, an event he hosted but finished in 68th — last among golfers who made the cut.
He has, however, won five times at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, most recently in 2012. The 82-time Tour winner will head out in an incredible group for the first two rounds this week, too, alongside Brooks Koepka and current World No. 1 Rory McIlroy.