Three weeks from now, more than 19 months after winning his fifth green jacket, Tiger Woods will defend his title at The Masters with the hope that he can tie Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record with a sixth win at Augusta.
But before he tees it up at the year’s final major, Tiger Woods will first defend his title at this week’s relocated Zozo Championship, where Woods will look to become the PGA Tour’s all-time wins leader with victory No. 83. It was thought that the Zozo would be Tiger’s only tournament in between the U.S. Open and The Masters but that might not be the case as Woods made an interesting announcement this week in regards to his preparation for Augusta.
Tiger Woods goes for PGA Tour win No. 83 at the Zozo Championship
The inaugural Zozo Championship took place last year and was the first-ever tournament sanctioned by the PGA Tour in Japan, where the tournament was supposed to take place again this year. However, due to COVID-19, the event was moved to the U.S. for this season only (at least for now) and will take place at Sherwood Country Club, a course Tiger Woods knows very well.
Woods held his annual Hero World Challenge at Sherwood a dozen times before moving it to the Bahamas (this year’s event has been canceled) and won five of those events. He also finished second five times.
With a win this week, which will certainly be difficult given the strong field, Tiger Woods would be the solo leader on the PGA Tour’s all-time wins list. He tied Sam Snead with victory No. 82 at last year’s Zozo Championship, shooting 19-under and finishing three strokes ahead of Hideki Matsuyama.
Many thought the Zozo would be his only start before The Masters
When Tiger Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open, the speculation began on just how many tournaments he would play leading into The Masters. The 15-time major champion has been criticized for not getting in enough official tournament reps, which is why many think he hasn’t been in contention at all since the restart of the PGA Tour.
Since the season resumed in June, Tiger has played in just five tournaments and hasn’t contended in any of them. He tied for 40th at the Memorial, tied for 37th at the PGA Championship, tied for 58th at the Northern Trust, tied for 51st at the BMW Championship, and then missed the cut at Winged Foot. He’s shown flashes of brilliance here and there but, overall, his game has not been sharp and he’s dropped from No. 13 in the world rankings to No. 28.
In looking at the schedule, it was a safe bet that the only tournament Tiger Woods would play between the U.S. Open and The Masters would be the one he’s playing this week. Simply put, none of the other tournaments were prestigious enough for him as they’re looked at as lower-level events. Some thought he might opt to play in last week’s CJ Cup, which boasted a fantastic field of players, but that would mean playing back-to-back weeks, which Tiger really doesn’t like to do these days given his back issues.
That’s why the announcement he made this week about his prep for The Masters was so interesting.
Tiger Woods announced that he might play the week before The Masters
At a press conference leading into the Zozo Championship, Tiger Woods, who usually doesn’t like talking about his future schedule, announced that there’s a chance that he could play the Shell Houston Open the week before The Masters, which is certainly very interesting.
Again, he doesn’t like playing two weeks in a row, although he did do so recently in the FedEx Cup Playoffs but only because he was trying to secure a spot in the Tour Championship, which obviously didn’t happen. But his announcement on Houston is also interesting because he has never played the week before The Masters as a professional. Ever.
But this year’s Masters is obviously different and Tiger Woods is fully aware of that, which is why he’s considering teeing it up the week before. He just wants to be sure his game is where it needs to be heading to Augusta (he’s always built his season around the majors) and if that means more tournament reps, so be it (h/t ESPN).
“I think my plan is just to play and practice. I don’t know if I’m going to play Houston or not. I’m not playing next week, and we’ll see how this week goes and make a decision from there.
“The whole idea is to be ready in a few weeks and whether or not that’s playing one more event, whether that’s Houston or just playing here at Zozo, just making sure that I’m ready for Augusta.”Tiger Woods
Looks like we’ll all just have to wait and see how Tiger Woods does at the Zozo Championship before we find out if he tees it up one more time before The Masters.