Tiger Woods may be in Russia when the PGA Tour visits Tucson in late February and he could be among several top players skipping the only match-play event on Tim Finchem’s 2014 calendar after Justin Rose suggested on Sunday that he would pass on the tournament.
"I'm thinking about having a month off around the February time," the reigning U.S. Open champion told James Corrigan after finishing T4 in Thailand, nine strokes behind Sergio Garcia’s winning score of 22-under. "It's been such a busy year and I think I probably need to recharge the batteries around then."
Rose, as Corrigan pointed out, was not the only golfer among the world’s best who may have put Dove Mountain in his rear-view mirror. Woods’ skiing gold medalist girlfriend Lindsey Vonn is training to compete in the Winter Olympics, which will be wrapping up as the match-play event winds down, and was a regular on tour whenever Tiger teed it up on tour in 2013.
Golf’s No. 1 may be compelled to return the favor and stand by his woman as she rebounds from a re-injury to her surgically repaired right knee and goes for her second Olympic gold. He did, however, leave himself an out should he decide he’d rather brave the warm breezes of the desert in February than the freezing cold drafts of wintry Sochi.
"It was below minus 40 [at the World Cup race in Lake Louise, Alberta, where Vonn was training] and it’s supposed to be a high of minus 30 up there so, um, no thanks," Woods, hugged snugly by a mock turtleneck and sweater and gulping hot coffee in Southern California's unseasonably cool weather, told NBC Sports after the third round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. "We thought it was cold here."
Another impetus for Woods, as well as Masters winner Adam Scott, FedExCup and Race to Dubai victor Henrik Stenson, and a weary Rory McIlroy, to snub match play would be the first-round ouster (officially, T33) each suffered in the most recent edition. Stenson and McIlroy have not publicly commented on their status for the competition, but Corrigan noted that Scott’s presence at the Arizona venue was in doubt.
As for Mickelson, the fifth-ranked male golfer has promised to trim his 2014 schedule and was a no-show last year for match play for the third time in the past four seasons. After missing the contest in 2010 and 2012, Mickelson chose to spend time with his family as the tourney played out in 2013.
While Rose told Corrigan he would huddle with manager Mark Steinberg about rounding out his playing calendar for 2014, which he will kick off in Abu Dhabi in January, Sunday’s winner in Thailand will likely continue his match-play tradition.
Garcia, with girlfriend Katharina Boehm on the bag, won the Thailand Golf Championship by four strokes over Henrik Stenson and has played match play in nine of his 13 years as a professional. After a season of controversy marked by his acrimonious feud with Woods as well as 12 months without a win, the world’s new No. 10 has been on something of a roll. He won his first worldwide event since the Johor Open last December after finishing in a share of second at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa a week earlier.
"It’s feels amazing," Garcia told Corrigan. "Henrik was pushing hard on that front nine – I’m just really happy to come through. I want to dedicate this win to my mum who had minor surgery early last week and is now recovering nicely and to my girlfriend who was with me throughout."
Speaking of traditions, might Garcia have launched a new one involving significant others schlepping their guys’ golf bags? After all, Caroline Wozniacki showed up for looping duty for McIlroy, caddie bib and all, for the Masters par-3 contest, and how hard could it be for a world-class skier like Vonn to tote Tiger's luggage?
Well, maybe not, but at least for one event, the experiment worked for Garcia.
"It's great to have her around, forget about having her on the bag this week," he told the Associated Press after Saturday’s third round. "Just a very positive person, a lot of good energy, that's what I love about her, and it's great to be able to go through this with her."
The 2014 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the PGA Tour’s fifth event of the new year on the 2013-’14 schedule, is slated to start Feb. 19 at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.