Tiger found his way here. Now can Tiger find Tiger?
For all the excitement about Tiger Woods playing the Wyndham Championship for the first time, he isn’t here because he was dying to spend a few days in the Triad or visit the ACC Hall of Champions.
He’s here to save himself. He’s here in a last, desperate attempt to get something, anything going on the golf course this summer – any golf course, which for the first time includes Sedgefield Country Club.
“It’s kind of fun,” Woods said. “This is like a small-town atmosphere.”
He wasn’t being patronizing. And he wasn’t lying about the first part, either. While he wore a relatively fixed smile on the course, Woods looked like he was having fun after his pro-am round, goofing around with Jason Dufner on the range, showing photos on his phone to a family of acquaintances.
If he’s more relaxed than he would normally be, perhaps it’s because he has nowhere else to go.
He missed the cut in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, hasn’t finished better than tied for 17th in any event this season, has fallen to 286th in the world rankings. This is only his 11th tournament of the summer as he continues a slow and lengthy recovery from back surgery. His driver is prone to waywardness, his putting erratic, his intimidation utterly ablated, his fall from grace on and off the golf course complete.
“You have one of the greatest players of my generation struggling to play this game,” said Luke Donald, another ex-world No. 1. “For 10 years, he was unstoppable, unbeatable. It just shows how fickle this game is, how many ebbs and flows there are to it. I don’t think anyone would have thought this.”
And yet would it really surprise anyone if Woods were actually to contend this week? He’s never played Sedgefield, but its layout suits him. He talked about being able to hit 2-irons into the par-5s instead of 5-woods, an observation that harkens back to the aggressiveness that was once his signature.
There is no backup plan. He wins here and he keeps playing. Anything else – other than a small set of permutations if he finishes second – and he goes home.
“I need to get more consistent with everything and start stringing together not just holes, not just rounds, but tournaments,” Woods said. “That’s why this tournament is important to me. Hopefully I can win and get in the playoffs and start playing a bunch of golf. If not, then I get a big break and some overseas stuff to do late this year.”
Woods drew the expected crowd on the course as he played in Wednesday’s pro-am with former Wake Forest star Chris Paul and Sedgefield owner John McConnell. As the horde followed him, it turned its collective back to the group behind, which included some guy named Adam Scott.
Scott, in any other year, would be the biggest name at the Wyndham. He’s a comfortable No. 2 this August.
“It happens everywhere he goes,” Scott said. “You can tell how passionate the local people and everyone involved in the tournament here are about this tournament, and it means such a great deal to them to have Tiger Woods in the field.”
Woods isn’t here to make the Triad happy, although he does have something in common with another Greensboro tradition. He’s the golf equivalent of an ACC team in town for the tournament needing to win it to make the NCAA tournament.
“Basically, if I don’t win this event I’ll have my offseason early,” Woods said.
So Tiger is Boston College or Pittsburgh: a newcomer to these parts and needing a victory to keep his season alive. That’s a familiar scenario around here, even if Woods’ current lowly status in the golf world is not.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947