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Tiger Woods is just being careful by skipping Bay Hill


ORLANDO – Dark clouds rolled over central Florida on Tuesday, spitting out rain and spoiling the days of thousands trying to enjoy Walt Disney World Resort, the Happiest Place on Earth.

The mood wasn’t much better down the highway at wet, chilly Bay Hill Club & Lodge as players prepped for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.

But there was no doom and gloom despite the dreary weather and the unwelcomed disturbance caused by Monday’s withdrawal of Tiger Woods, who cited a neck strain as the reason he’s bypassing an event he’s won a record eight times.

While Woods’ WD sent shockwaves through the golf world, there were no tremors at Bay Hill. Among the players, there was no fear that the injury-plagued Woods is facing a long-term issue, especially to his back, which has undergone four surgical procedures, the most recent in April 2017.

A long-term issue, after all, would jeopardize the money train Woods created since turning pro in 1996. As the top draw in the game, Woods is the transcendent athlete who has pulled in people of all stripes and built up TV ratings and the PGA Tour’s coffers. He creates buzz and attention that no one else can muster.

‘He’s being overly cautious’

Still, no player is holding his breath until they see a healthy Woods again. Not even defending champion and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, who saw Woods receive treatment before and after each round two weeks ago at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

McIlroy also said Woods was wearing KT Tape on his upper back.

“He’s just being careful,” McIlroy said.

That’s what Woods told two-time major champion Zach Johnson in text messages Tuesday morning.

“I know that guy well enough to know this is something he’s being overly cautious of, and he should be, because of what is on the table and what’s ahead of him,” Johnson said. “Rest will help, with the proper attention to go with that rest.”

Johnson, who like Woods is 43, knows the day will come when Woods says adios. But that time isn’t coming any time soon, Johnson said, and he expects to see the 14-time major champion at The Players.

“I might be gone before he’s gone,” Johnson said with a laugh. “But no, I don’t think about what the game would be like when he leaves. Will it survive? Of course, it will. This is not a knock on TW, but we’ve seen this Tour not only survive but flourish when he’s not playing because he’s injured.

“But we just know when he’s around it’s that much better.”

Pat Perez agreed. He said Tiger doesn’t move the needle, he is the needle.

“But we do have a lot of great players and great talent who will carry the Tour the same way when Jack (Nicklaus) left and Arnie (Palmer) left,” Perez said.

Still a loaded field

This week is a prime example. While the headliner is gone, the marquee is still loaded, starting with McIlroy, who won by three last year and capped his victory with five birdies in his last six holes.

Each of the reigning major champions is in the field – Patrick Reed (Masters), Francesco Molinari (British Open) and Brooks Koepka (U.S. Open and PGA Championship). Koepka tied for second last week in the Honda Classic.

World No. 2 Justin Rose is here, as is 2016 Palmer champion Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau. So, too, is Rickie Fowler, who won the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year and tied for second in the Honda Classic.

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson is in the field along with Hideki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood and Ian Poulter.

And the star among the remaining stars will be Phil Mickelson, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last month. Lefty, who won at Bay Hill in 1997, is making his first appearance since 2013.

Yes, the tournament took a major hit Monday with Woods deciding not to play. But the event is still standing. And standing tall.

Tiger Woods is just being careful by skipping Bay Hill , Steve DiMeglio , 2019-03-05 16:46:03 , https://usatgolfweek.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/usp-pga_-wgc-mexico-championship-final-round-1.jpg , , , https://golfweek.com/2019/03/05/golf-tiger-woods-being-overly-cautious-injury/



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