Tiger Woods won’t be walking in Memphis next week, he announced on Twitter.
Woods’s preparation for his pursuit of major title No. 16 won’t include an appearance at next week’s WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational ahead of the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, which begins Aug. 6.
“Disappointed to miss the WGC FedEx, but doing what I think is best to prepare me for the PGA Championship and FedEx Cup playoffs,” Woods wrote.
Woods typically doesn’t like to play the week before a major championship. Since turning pro in 1996, he’s only played in 12 tournaments leading into a major. However, all 12 of those occurrences had been the week before the PGA Championship in its former August date, giving hope that he might play this year’s WGC.
Woods’s surgically-repaired back seemingly has prevented him from making back-to-back starts. The last time he did so? The 2019 Genesis Open and WGC Mexico Championship, but his balky back forced him to miss the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks later and limited his play in the lead up to the Masters.
Woods has always built his schedule around the four majors, but winning a fifth green jacket and 15th major title at the 2019 Masters has breathed new life into his quest to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors. Woods, 44, knows his window is closing and so he’s limited his schedule more than ever to protect the health of his back. Last year, he didn’t play a tournament between the Masters and PGA in May and the U.S. Open and British Open in July and missed the cut in both.
Woods has never played in the Tour’s annual stop in Memphis since turning pro. In fact, the only time Woods has teed it up in the birth city of Elvis is when he held a children’s golf clinic at Pine Hills Golf Course in August 1997. Hopes for landing Woods improved when the FedEx St. Jude Invitational was elevated to WGC status in 2019.
Woods has won a record 18 WGC’s, but he’s only competed in four tournaments this season and skipped several tournaments he typically plays, including the API and the Players Championship, hobbled by back issues before the Tour’s season was suspended in March due to coronavirus.
“I feel so much better than I did then,” he said ahead of The Memorial last week, his lone start since the Tour resumed play in June at the Charles Schwab Challenge. “I’ve been able to train and concentrate on getting back up to speed and back up to tournament speed.”
After a five-month absence, Woods finished T-40 at The Memorial. Woods struggled with his putting and on Friday his clubhead speed was down significantly.
“I couldn’t quite turn back and couldn’t quite clear,” he said. “It was a bit of a struggle.”
After shooting a final-round 76, Woods termed the week “a lot of positives,” while conceding he needed more reps. But whether those reps would consist of practice rounds at Medalist Golf Club, his home course in Florida, or in Memphis, Tiger kept his plans for when he’d compete next close to the vest.
“Soon,” he told Amanda Balionis on CBS after his round.
Not soon enough for a walk through Memphis.