By committing to play the Valspar Championship next week and the Arnold Palmer Invitational the following week, Tiger Woods has assured himself at least five 2018 PGA Tour starts before he tees it up in the Masters for just the second time in five years.
There had been speculation in recent weeks that Woods would play at the Valspar event at Innisbrook Resort outside Tampa, Fla., for the first time, giving himself another pre-Masters start in addition to the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, which he was widely expected to enter. Woods’ announcement Friday of his commitment to both events is another indication that Woods is feeling no ill effects from his spinal fusion surgery last year. Jordan Spieth has also added the Valspar Championship to his schedule this year.
Woods has won eight times at Bay Hill and that figures to be his last start before the Masters. Currently ranked 389th in the world, Woods is likely too far outside the top 64 to qualify for the WGC-Dell Match Play the week after Bay Hill. (The PGA Tour also has an event in the Dominican Republic opposite the Match Play, and the Houston Open is scheduled the week before the Masters.)
In his three starts this year, Woods has finished T23 at the Farmers Insurance Open, missed the cut at the Genesis Open and finished 12th at the Honda Classic last week.
“I’ve been away from tournament golf for so long that I’m starting to feel the rounds. I’m starting to get into it quicker, feel the pace, feel the shots and get a better sense of it. The more I play tournament golf, the better I’ll get at it,” Woods said after the Honda Classic.
Innisbrook will be another test of Woods’ accuracy off the tee, perhaps the most challenging aspect of his comeback to this point. In recent years, Innisbrook has ranked among the most difficult scoring courses on the PGA Tour.