Tiger Woods Explains Return To Phoenix Open

Most popular golfer on earth causes a stir at the TPC Scottsdale

Even though he has not won a PGA Tour event since August 4, 2013, and is coming off another round of injuries, Tiger Woods moves the needle for a golf tournament. Woods is returning to competitive golf this week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, an event he has not played in since 2001.

Usually, about 500 media credentials are requested for the tourney. This year, that number topped 800. When Woods is in the field, more people are interested.

Tiger’s hiatus from the TPC Scottsdale was prompted by safety concerns. In 1999, police subdued a heckler and discovered he’d snuck a gun in to the gallery. In 2001, a fan threw an orange on to the green when Woods was putting.

On Tuesday, after playing nine holes during a practice round, Woods was asked if he remembered the incident.

“The guy on 6?” asked Woods. “That's one of the reasons why I hadn't played in a while. You know, I think the people here have done a fantastic job over the years and making sure things are a lot more safe.”

Tiger is also dangerously close to dropping out of the Top-50 in the world rankings and losing a spot in the highly lucrative, invitation-only WGC events. He needs to get a few tournaments under his belt to beef up his resume. So, instead of making his traditional season debut at Torrey Pines (he will still play the Farmers Insurance Open the following week), Woods is teeing it up in the desert.

Once again, he’ll be trying to work in a new swing, this one constructed by his latest coach, 37-year-old Chris Como.

“We have a game plan we need to get to,” said Woods. “Each stage, you know, we're ahead of schedule on each stage of the game plan, and, you know, that's a good sign. Overall, I'm very pleased to go out there and hit shots. Speed's coming back up. It's going to be a fun year. Chipping, I was caught between techniques, between my old release pattern and body movement when I was working with Sean and then my new release pattern. We had to basically just hit thousands upon thousands upon thousands of chips and just get it out of there, and now it's better.”

As is the tournament tradition, the Waste Management Phoenix Open is being held the same weekend as the Super Bowl. This year, they happen to be about a 30-mile drive away from each other. So, will Woods, an outspoken football fan, be making a quick exit from the golf course and heading to the West Valley to see a game?

“I'd like to. That's the plan. I just wish my Raiders were there, but they're not.”

And odds are, they won’t be any time soon. But if it’s any consolation for Woods, he got to play his pro-am round on Wednesday with Raiders Hall of Famer (and San Diego Lincoln High alum) Marcus Allen.

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