Golf is not supposed to matter much in October. Sure, there’s a slate of official PGA Tour events that technically start the next season in what is now known as the “wraparound schedule.” But the game is supposed to recede quietly and go away for a few months — you know, enjoy the holidays, recharge, and return in the new year.
Not this year. One of the biggest golf dates of 2016 will happen in mid-October, just two weeks after the Ryder Cup. This usual lull in the schedule has us hyped all the way up because the first event of the 2016-17 season, the Safeway Open, marks the return of Tiger Woods. It is the first event Tiger will play in more than a year, his last start coming at the Wyndham Championship in August of 2015.
Tiger looked ... not bad? ... in that last event, but we’d learn shortly thereafter that the back problems which had bothered him the preceding two seasons had unexpectedly reappeared. What he thought was hip trouble was the same serious back issue that threatened, and still threatens, his entire career at age 40. Unlike his previous encounters with the injury, Tiger took ample time to make sure he didn’t rush back from what might be his last shot at the highest level. After 13 months away, he’s ready.
So the little old Safeway Open in this bucolic wine country setting will be lit. But not only did they land the biggest whale and top draw in the history of the game, they also got his superstar contemporary, Phil Mickelson. The Lefty will also fulfill his Tour duties and play this wraparound schedule event, the seven tournament slate in October and November formerly known as the “fall series.”
Tiger and Phil, the two biggest draws in the game for so many years, teeing it up at the dang Safeway Open. Now comes a report from local San Francisco Chronicle writer Ron Kroichick that the Tour is not messing around and will put the two together for the first two rounds this Thursday and Friday. That’s not been the case with these two for so many years, as the Tour often prefers to put the two on opposite sides of the draw, so the morning and afternoon waves of tee times (and the TV broadcast) each have a “headliner” the first two days.
Mickelson said he wanted the pairing when he heard Tiger was planning to make his comeback in Napa, telling ESPN.com last month, "I'm hoping we can get paired together. That would be really fun. I would love it. It's great to have him back, and hopefully he's physically able to practice the way he needs." He’ll reportedly get his wish.
Adding to the hype of the Tiger-Phil show, Kroichick also reports that Woods will play with Stephen Curry in the pro-am portion of the week on Wednesday. Here’s hoping the reigning unanimous MVP is not 2-up on Tiger with three holes to play in the side match they’ll undoubtedly have going at Silverado Country Club.
Tiger, Phil, Steph ... golf is not supposed to be this turbo-powered in mid-October but we cannot wait for the Safeway Open.