Tiger Woods hasn’t played on the PGA Tour in 14 months, and that streak will not end this week. As first reported by Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte Monday afternoon and later confirmed by Woods on his website, Woods has withdrawn from the Safeway Open, as well as the Turkish Airlines Open next month.
Woods made the decision not to play because his game “is vulnerable and not where it needs to be. … I wasn’t ready to compete against the best golfers in the world,” Woods wrote Monday.
Johnny Miller is the tournament host at Safeway, and the Silverado Resort and Spa is home. As host, he is disappointed that Woods won’t be playing come Thursday in a highly anticipated reported pairing alongside Phil Mickelson.
But as a competitor, Miller has empathy. He understands.
There was a time when Miller, who battled the putting yips, wanted to walk away from the Tour for good and retire to his ranch.
“I was ready to quit,” Miller, NBC’s longtime golf analyst, said Monday on Golf Channel, “and a voice said to me, ’It’s not what you accomplish in life that really matters, it’s what you overcome that proves who you really are, and proves the man.’ I also was inspired to think, my kids, if I quit when I’m down, that’s all they’re going to remember. If I win four or five more tournaments, I can quit on my own terms.
“I’m hoping that Tiger uses that as a goal, to win in front of his kids. … Then he can have joy in doing so, and joy in the game. Go enjoy the darned game. I hope that he can come back. I hope he doesn’t walk away.”
When Woods, who has undergone two microdiscectomy procedures in the last two years (along with a follow-up last fall), had announced that Safeway would be his competitive return, Miller was ecstatic. Miller predicted that in Woods’ latest comeback, he still had enough talent and juice to win “six or eight” more times on the PGA Tour.
Monday, in the wake of Woods’ withdrawal, Miller did not back down from those comments.
“I do (think he can win again), because he has so much natural talent,” Miller said. “When he got the pitching and chipping yips, how can a guy – probably the best guy that’s ever lived along with Phil Mickelson and Billy Casper and a few others, the greatest chipper/putter combination in history – how can he get that? The only way you get that is by losing your confidence, almost a nervous thing.
“I was thinking well, maybe this rest he had, he would get over that. … I’m not sure where he’s at. I’m just speculating. As an announcer, I’m not supposed to speculate, but I’m just Johnny Miller, host of the Safeway Open, so I guess I can say what I think right now.”
The show in Napa will go on, with Ryder Cup players Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar headlining the field. But without Woods playing, there won’t be near the electricity for the 2016-17 PGA Tour opener.
“Everyone was so excited in the golf world, excited here in Northern California and for the golf tournament, and for all the ticket sales we’ve had and the ads we run,” Miller said. “I know there is a lot of pressure on Tiger after 14 months of being away from professional golf. The expectation and the nervous level has almost got to be like when he first played in in his first L.A. Open when he was a kid (of 16).
“It’s hard being Tiger Woods, it really is, especially if you can’t back it up with semblance of the old Tiger Woods. Everyone expects him to come back and play like the year 2000. It’s just not going to happen. He’s got to break the ice sometime. I hope he picks the right spot.”
Woods’ next possible start could come at his host event, the Hero World Challenge, in December. Miller did say that Woods told him he will play in the Safeway next fall.