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Without Tiger Woods, Players Championship is missing an important part

Without Tiger Woods, Players Championship is missing an important part

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The darn shame of it all is not seeing Tiger Woods on the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass has become par for the course.

When 144 golfers tee it up Thursday on the 50th anniversary of the Players Championship, it will mark a Woods no-show for the fifth consecutive year, the longest stretch of absences for any former No. 1-ranked golfer still eligible to play in the PGA Tour’s signature event.

Many Tour insiders thought the long-standing gold standard for golf excellence would make it for the Players’ golden anniversary. They felt the date was ideal for Tiger to use this week to tune up his game for the Masters, getting enough rest to be ready for the year’s first major.

But at 48, with so much scar tissue built up from two decades of body breakdowns, Woods seems less inclined to trust his body to hold up.

So the Players will go on again without him, leaving many to wonder if that closing 69 in 2019 and tie for 30th place will be his last competitive round on the Stadium Course.

“I do miss him,” said Billy Horschel, counted among Woods’ good friends on Tour. “It’s sort of fun to have a little jab at him, he throws some jabs at you, then you throw some jabs at him. It’s just fun. We all know when Tiger is playing, the atmosphere and energy that is felt throughout the grounds at a golf tournament. It’s unlike any other I’ve ever been a part of.

“We have a lot of great players in today’s game of golf, but Tiger’s the needle, he’s the dial, he’s everything that encompasses moving the needle.”

Sure, we’ve all known for a good while now that Tiger is approaching the end of one of the most stupendous careers in all of sports.

But the Tour would still love for Woods to receive a proper sendoff from the fans at its most prestigious event. Whether that happens remains a bigger mystery with each passing year.

As his body keeps betraying him and Woods’ priorities shift away from playing competitively, the more likely it seems that a fitting goodbye to the Players may not fit into his schedule.

Next year, maybe?

Horschel is holding out hope that circumstances can align for Tiger to tee it up one more time at the Players.

Normally, his eligibility for the tournament from his 2019 Masters victory would have expired this year, but Woods gets an extra year due to COVID-19. Thus, he’s eligible for the last time in 2025 without having to win a Tour event or finish in the top 125 in FedEx Cup…


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