San Francisco Chronicle article
September 7, 2016 • By Ron Kroichick
Tiger Woods announced Wednesday that he plans to return to competitive golf next month at the PGA TOUR’s Safeway Open in Napa.
Woods broke the news with a tweet and story on his website. He said he “can’t wait to compete again” and hopes to follow the event at Silverado Resort by playing in tournaments in Turkey and the Bahamas this fall.
Woods, 40, has not played in a tour event since Aug. 23, 2015, when he shot 70 in the final round of the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. (and tied for 10th). He had microdiscectomy surgery on his back less than a month later.
Wednesday’s news counts as a coup for the Safeway event, which often struggles to attract the world’s top players. This year’s tournament posed a particular challenge in the wake of the Ryder Cup, which wraps up 11 days before the opening round at Silverado on Oct. 13.
Phil Mickelson previously was the biggest name in the field, but Mickelson moved down one spot on the marquee to make way for his old adversary, Woods.
“Nobody moves the needle like Tiger, especially since he hasn’t played for so long,” tournament host Johnny Miller said in a phone interview. “Everybody in the whole golf world will wonder what he’s going to do at Silverado, what kind of game he has.”
Woods left himself an out, saying his participation ultimately hinged on the state of his back.
“My rehabilitation is to the point where I’m comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do,” he said on his website. “Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go.…
“It was difficult missing tournaments that are important to me, but this time I was smart about my recovery and didn’t rush it. It was great spending time with my children Sam and Charlie, and also working on a lot of projects … but I missed competing.”
Woods was obligated to play in the Napa event at some point, as required by an agreement with the PGA Tour. He and seven other notable players skipped the 2012 Frys.com Open (since renamed the Safeway Open) for a lucrative exhibition event in Turkey.
Those other seven — Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood, Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan and Charl Schwartzel — all played in Napa in 2014 or ’15.
Woods, meantime, will have gone 59 weeks and two days between his last official shot in North Carolina and his next one in Northern California.
“It’s great to have Tiger back on the PGA TOUR playing golf, especially in Northern California, where he has such a following,” said Jeff Sanders, the tournament’s executive director. “It’s a great place for him to start.”
This year’s Safeway Open is scheduled for Oct. 13-16 on Silverado’s North Course.
Ron Kroichick is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.