Woods makes second start since PGA Tour’s ‘Return to Golf’ in Covid time

Tiger Woods. File Pic

Any tournament that has Tiger Woods in the line-up assumes greater significance. And so it is with the PGA Championship at TPC Harding in San Francisco, where Woods will make only his second appearance since the PGA Tour’s ‘Return to Golf’ in June.

A modest T-40 finish at the Memorial Tournament has been his only start since February, but he comes to the venue  of the PGA with the knowledge that he has won here – the 2005 WGC at TPC Harding Park.

After the PGA, Woods will probably have his eyes on the FedEx Cup play-offs in August-September, followed by two other Majors of 2020 – the US Open in September and the Masters in November. In the period between the US Open and the Masters, assuming both are on schedule, there will be eight events in the new 2020-21 season and they would include the ZOZO Championship Woods won in 2019. But it is unclear whether he will play any, though having a start before the Masters is likely. Then it will be his own event, the 18-man star-studded Hero World Challenge in Bahamas in December to round off 2020.

Another man looking to set some records straight will be Rory McIlroy, who before the pandemic shut down events was in brilliant form. He has not won a tournament in a long time – not since the WGC-HSBC in Shanghai in October, 2019 and he has not won a Major since 2014 at the 96th edition of the PGA at Valhalla. McIlroy did win at TPC Harding in the WGC in 2015.

The PGA Championship moved to May from August last year but this year it returns to August because of the schedule shuffling caused by the coronavirus. Till recently, the last of the four Majors, the PGA for the first time since 1971 will be the first major championship of the season.

It will be an extremely strong field with 95 of the top 100 players in the world expected to tee it up as Brooks Koepka after two straight wins seeks a third, but with no spectators to cheer for him.

Meanwhile, the World No. 1 spot has become a bit of a rolling trophy in recent months. In 2020 alone Brooks Koepka, McIlroy, Rahm and the current No. 1 Justin Thomas have been on the top. The two preceding them were Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose. All of them are in the field this week.

Five of the world’s current Top-six have held World No. 1 position in recent time and one more Adam Scott, right now No. 9, has been a World No. 1 in the past.

But the man, who has held that spot the longest in the game’s history, Woods, is now No. 15. And, he knows one win can turn the tide and put him back on the Road to No. 1.

Thomas’ lone Major came at the PGA in 2017 but the two since then have been won by Koepka – Thomas skipped the 2019 edition due to wrist injury.

Koepka seeks to be the first golfer to win the PGA Championship three years in succession since Walter Hagen, who did it four in a row from 1924-1927 during the match-play era.

Woods has four PGA Championships and a fifth win will tie him with Hagen and Jack Nicklaus.

Finally, the PGA, the one Major missing from Jordan Spieth’s cabinet and a win here will complete a career Grand Slam.

The TPC Harding Park is 7,234 yards, par 70 has hosted two World Golf Championships and the PGA TOUR Champions season finale – the Charles Schwab Cup Championship – in 2010, 2011, and 2013. TPC Harding Park was also the home of the 2009 Presidents Cup and will once again play host in 2026.

Post the PGA only the Wyndham Championship remains for players to jockey for positions entering the FedExCup Playoffs.

 

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