The vantage point was as good as any at Riviera for a clear view of Tiger Woods, and considering how little he plays, Tiger sightings are rare these days.
The man positioned himself behind a stationary TV camera in a tower behind the 12th green as Woods made his way to the 13th tee. He was talking. He was loud. He wouldn’t stop. At one point, Christiaan Bezuidenhout had to back off his shot.
Turns out this wasn’t a cameraman. When asked to show his credential, the man leaned over and slowly raised a can of beer. He came down from the tower, went back outside the ropes and two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies escorted him off the course.
That probably – no, definitely – will not happen at Augusta National, which may very well be the next time golf gets to see its biggest star. Then again, Woods might make his way to the TPC Sawgrass in three weeks for The Players Championship.
Woods said he wants to play the four majors and a few other events. What those tournaments are, no one knows. And if Woods does, he isn’t saying.
“Here’s the deal,” Woods said Sunday after finishing his first tournament since the Masters last year. “I’m not going to play any more than probably the majors and maybe a couple more. That’s it. That’s all my body will allow me to do. My back the way it is, all the surgeries I had on my back, my leg the way it is, I just can’t.
“That’s just going to be my future.”
The schedule is not based on a score. It’s what happens after he signs his card, and what he does before he is announced in between, and what sounds like plenty of ice and other treatment.
As for his golf?
Some of it was great, some of it was pedestrian, none of it was boring. That explains why thousands were waiting for him around the first tee on Thursday morning for his first tournament in seven months, and chanted his name when he finished on Sunday.
“Been in front of large crowds before, but not 10,000 people that’s rooting for one guy in the group,” Bezuidenhout said Saturday after watching Woods post a 67, his lowest score on the PGA Tour since October, 2020, which was only five tournaments ago.
Matthias Schwab of Austria also was in the group. He said he has played with Rory McIlroy a few times on the European tour and experienced big crowds.
“This was another level,” Schwab said.
That’s to be expected no matter where he goes because Woods plays so infrequently. Part of the pandemonium is that he is playing at all.
It was two years ago when his SUV went off the road in the Los Angeles suburbs going nearly 87 mph [140 km/h] and tumbled down a hill. He spent the summer in a makeshift hospital bed in his Florida home. He was swinging a club in November, playing a 36-hole event with his son while riding a cart in December and playing the Masters five months later.
Woods is an eight-time winner at Bay Hill, but the last of those was 10 years ago. It’s easy to lean on past history, except for Woods that means surgeries on his back and right leg dating to 2014, the left knee the decade prior.
Riviera – which Woods has played the most times (12 as a pro) without winning – made sense because he is the tournament host. The other tournament that benefits his foundation is the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. He’ll likely play there.
Otherwise, the focus is on the majors, and the hope he can recapture a little magic and make a lot of putts and at least go into the weekend with a fighting chance. He was five behind after the first round, and the deficit grew to 11 shots and 12 shots until he finished 16 shots behind Jon Rahm.
That was his first competition in seven months. It could be seven weeks before he plays again at the Masters, and he hopes to be in the other majors. Nothing is guaranteed. There is golf and there is tournament golf, and they are not the same.
“I can do carts at home,” he said. “I can hit balls, chip and putt. But as I said, it’s time or attention and getting your eight to 10 miles of walking in and the concentration that it takes. Yeah, it’s hard. I’ve done it for a long time.
“The body is,” he continued, “sometimes it says no even though the mind says yes.”
Catch him while you can.