With Tiger Woods yet to excuse himself from Thursday’s start to the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and his caddie on a reconnaissance mission at Donald Trump’s newly overhauled Blue Monster, all signs point to the world No. 1 returning from a brief stint on the DL and immediately take on the guy who wants to relieve him of his top ranking.
Reigning Masters champ Adam Scott and third-ranked Henrik Stenson have a 12:39 p.m. ET golf date with Tiger on the first tee at Doral. If recent history and momentum mean anything, the defending champion will have his plate full trying to fend off one player in particular who’s eager and in position to take his milk money and eat his lunch.
"It's been a dream of mine, like it's a dream of every other kid's, to be number one and I'm as close as I've ever been," Scott said late last year during a torrid stretch of golf in which he nearly scored the Down Under hat trick, but for Rory McIlroy’s birdie on the last hole of the Australian Open. "I'm not going to stop dreaming of it just because Tiger Woods holds the No. 1 spot."
Woods, of course, cited lingering back pain as the reason for his withdrawal from last week’s Honda Classic after carding an outgoing 5-over 40 and with five holes to go in the final round. He said afterward he would rest his aches, get treatment for the problem, and that he may not know until Thursday whether he could give it a go this week.
In the meantime, Tiger’s looper Joe LaCava was out scouting the changes to a venue on which his boss had won four times, according to Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis. This week’s event remained on Woods’ schedule, and tourney officials posted first- and second-round tee times for the world’s top 50 golfers (including Woods) and others who will comprise the most robust field yet in the PGA Tour’s 2013-2014 wrap-around season.
Woods’ unfortunate WD may have been a precautionary measure, as Justin Rose -- returning this week after skipping the Honda to tend to a bout with nagging tendinitis in his right shoulder -- suggested as the reason for his finite number of reps this season.
"I wouldn't call it 100 percent but I would call it on the way there," the 2013 U.S. Open champion told reporters on Tuesday ahead of his first-round tee time with Zach Johnson and Sergio Garcia. "I really think I'm over the hump."
Rose noted, "I haven't hit as many balls as I would, but I don't believe that's a contributing factor to how I'm going to perform," words that could have come from Woods, whose Honda WD, plus a MDF at Torrey Pines and a T41 in Dubai, added up to the worst start of his professional career.
Scott, meanwhile, with Woods squarely in his sights, is trending upward. After his two home-field triumphs -- the Australian PGA and Masters -- the 33-year-old winner of 10 official tour events has made his limited starts count, with three top-eight finishes and a T12 at the Honda in his four tour appearances this season.
While the hunter would probably like to look his prey in the eye as he brings him down, Scott, with a win this week, can knock Woods off his rankings perch whether No. 1 participates or not. He and the rest of the golf world will know soon enough if Tiger is up to the challenge, since Woods will take the podium at 1 p.m. Wednesday to provide a status update on the most recent in a long string of injuries the 38-year-old superstar has had to endure over the years.
UPDATE: Tiger's agent has confirmed that the world No. 1 will give it a go this week at Doral.
In addition to the battle for No. 1, here are some of the other marquee pairings and tee times for the first two days of another loaded WGC event:
|Round 1||Round 2||Players|
|11:33 a.m.||12:39 p.m.||Dustin Johnson||Matt Kuchar||Jordan Spieth|
|11:44 a.m.||12:50 p.m.||Phil Mickelson||Rory McIlroy||Jason Day|
|12:17 p.m.||11:22 a.m.||Bubba Watson||Steve Stricker||Graeme McDowell|
|12:28 p.m.||11:33 a.m.||Sergio Garcia||Justin Rose||Zach Johnson|
|12:39 p.m.||11:44 a.m.||Tiger Woods||Adam Scott||Henrik Stenson|