Let’s back up to the beginning of this dramatic back-and-forth. First, there was Brian Wacker’s report Friday for Golf Digest that it’s unlikely Tiger Woods will tee it up at the Masters this year. Here’s the pertinent bit.
“Woods’ agent did not respond to an email seeking an update on his condition and schedule, but one source close to the situation near Woods’ home in Jupiter, Fla., said, “I would be shocked if he plays anytime soon.”
“Another source said that he saw Woods recently and he “didn’t look good,” adding that while he hopes he is back soon, Woods doesn’t look close to being ready and that a return at the Masters would be too soon. The source added that all Woods has been able to do of late has been putt.”
Woods, of course, hasn’t played a competitive round since withdrawing from the Abu Dhabi Championship at the beginning of February.
While Steinberg didn’t respond to Wacker’s email, he sure felt compelled to talk to Golf Channel in light of the scribe’s report. Here’s what Mark Steinberg had to say.
“I have no idea who Mr. Wacker’s really close sources are. I can tell you this, nobody spoke to him; so how he could know something that Tiger and I don’t know is comical. I talked to Tiger four hours ago on the phone. We’re not in a situation to even talk about playing in the Masters now. He’s gotten treatments and is progressing and hoping he can do it. There’s not been a decision one way or the other. I couldn’t give you a fair assessment, but to say it’s doubtful is an absolutely inaccurate statement.”
It’s no secret that Team Tiger is a secretive bunch, so the idea that someone broke ranks and spoke to Golf Digest is particularly irksome to Woods’ longtime agent. It’s unclear who the “nobody” in question would be/who Steinberg feels has the authority to speak on Woods’ condition (besides he and Woods).
It’s also unclear how Woods isn’t “in a situation to even talk about playing in the Masters” with the tournament just three weeks away. And Steinberg certainly didn’t refute the report that Woods’ practice has been limited to stroking a few putts since the WD in Abu Dhabi…
Anyway, Geoff Shackelford (and Tim Rosaforte) essentially backed up Wacker’s source reports. Per Shackelford:
“Tim Rosaforte confirmed on Morning Drive that the chatter around Jupiter–“interclub to interclub, golf gym to golf gym”–suggests Tiger has not been seen playing or practicing. Rosaforte notes this may be misleading since Tiger could be practicing at his home facility. Rosaforte also notes, “if Tiger was hitting balls you would have heard about it and read about it by now from me, just living down there.’”
Ultimately, here’s the most optimistic take on this war of words: Woods is completing some level of practice and preparation at his home facility and is yet to concern himself with a firm decision on whether he’ll play in the Masters.
But with the first round beginning on April 6, he’ll surely want to dial up his preparations in earnest if there’s a chance we’ll see him inside the ropes at Augusta National.
Also a certainty: Woods’ book signing Monday in New York will be the most attentively watched and heavily scrutinized in the history of golf book signings.