Tiger to play next week? Lots of hints being dropped

February 18, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Over the last 24 hours, much of the discussion about Tiger Woods’ “gathering of friends” on Friday has focused on what he’s going to say and not on WHY he picked tomorrow to do it.

Initially, some people who aren’t very smart thought it was Tiger’s way of “getting back at Accenture”, the sponsor of this week’s Match Play event and one of the companies that dropped Woods from their sponsorship stable after his public admission of infidelity in December.  In fact, the scheduled 11am press “briefing” tomorrow doesn’t conflict at all with the event in Arizona.  Tiger will making his appearance at 9:00 am Arizona time…and there’s no golf scheduled for that time period tomorrow.  And Woods might be a guy who runs around on his wife, but a dumb businessman he’s not (unless you can become a billionaire by being dumb…).  There’s no way he’d intentionally flip the middle finger at Accenture after their years of handing him millions of free money.

Here’s what MIGHT be happening:

Woods could be getting ready to play next week at TPC Scottsdale in the PGA Tour event.

His agent and handlers have been dropping cryptic hints over the last 24 hours and no one in the national media seems to be picking up on it.

“We have no choice but to have this (briefing) on Friday,” says Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent.  “There’s a reason why it has to be done on Friday.”

Some players, like Ernie Els today, have questioned Tiger’s decision to hold his event on Friday morning when it clearly upstages the actual golf that’s being played in Arizona this week.

“Ernie and everyone else will understand tomorrow why Tiger had to do this on Friday, February 18.”

Seems to me that’s basically saying: Tiger is going to enter the event in Scottsdale and has to meet the 5pm deadline (the week before) on Friday to do it.

Of course, Woods could be planning on a 15-day vacation to someplace-only-his-yacht-can-take-him and maybe that’s why tomorrow’s message has to be delivered then…”Tiger is leaving bright and early Saturday morning to take a much needed vacation and then he’ll return in late March to play in a couple of events and he plans to play the Masters in early April.”  That COULD be the announcement tomorrow.  I’m not sure why he couldn’t have done that on Tuesday of this week instead of Friday though.

It strikes me that Woods is setting the stage to tell people he’s coming back next week in Scottsdale.

The regulations for PGA Tour events are that exempt players (Woods is one of those) have until 5pm the week BEFORE an event starts to register. The list of registered players is always accessible to the players themselves via their own personal PGA Tour Player web-page and once 5pm rolls around on Friday and Woods says “I’m in”, the whole world will know anyway.

And there’s no way Tiger would enter the event and then go face the media in Scottsdale.  He’d be away from his comfort zone of Florida, Orlando, etc.

Also, the bulk of the national golf media takes off after this week, having spent the better part of three weeks covering the TOUR in Los Angeles, Pebble Beach and now, this week, at the Match Play event.  In other words, playing next week in Scottsdale could afford Woods the chance to play without a huge throng of press members breathing down his neck — although we all know if Woods plays next week it’s going to be a circus.

And by picking the TPC Scottsdale location, Woods can live on the premises somewhere and be relatively sure of his security and privacy while staying in a gated, secure community.

Just a hunch — and I definitely could be wrong — but all of these signs are pointing to him playing next week.

He’s been seen this week hitting golf balls.  He’s been photographed jogging in his neighborhood.  Tomorrow he’s going to make a public statement.  All of this adds up to:  The hiding period is over.  It’s time for Woods to get back to doing what he does best…winning golf events.

So now, it would appear, Tiger is going to play golf again in 2010.  That much is just about definite, unless he drops some kind of crazy bombshell tomorrow at 11am.

More than anything though, the big question remains:  Why would he pick Friday to make his announcement unless he HAD to make it?  And if he wants to play next week in Scottsdale, Woods MUST make the announcement and enter himself in the tournament by 5pm tomorrow.

We’ll see.

One thing for sure:  Tiger is back.  He’s practicing, he’s running and he’s getting ready to play golf again.  And tomorrow, he’s going to say something – who knows what? – to the sports world that he’s been thinking about for the better part of 80 days.

Let the fun begin.