Golf

'Vulnerable' Tiger Woods withdraws from Safeway Open

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AP

'Vulnerable' Tiger Woods withdraws from Safeway Open

The comeback of Tiger Woods is going to have to wait at least two more months.

Three days before Woods planned to end his longest break from golf at the Safeway Open, he abruptly withdrew on Monday and said his game was not ready to take on PGA Tour competition.

"My health is good, and I feel strong," Woods said on his website. "But my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be."

And so the waiting continues.

Woods first announced on Sept. 7 that he planned to play three times by the end of the year, starting with the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort in Napa, California. Then, he officially committed to the tournament on Friday.

The buzz was building for his return, with word leaking that he would be paired with Phil Mickelson and defending Silverado champion Emiliano Grillo. Instead, Woods withdrew from the Safeway Open and the Turkish Airlines Open on Nov. 3-6 after what he described as "a lot of soul searching."

He said he plans to play at his Hero World Challenge on Dec. 1-4 in the Bahamas.

"When I announced last week I was going to Safeway, I had every intention of playing, or I wouldn't have committed," Woods said.

He was at the Ryder Cup two weeks ago as an assistant captain and said the experience "inspired me even more to play." Woods said he practiced the last several days in California, where he also went to Stanford's football game against Washington State.

"But after a lot of hours, I knew I wasn't ready to compete against the best golfers in the world," he said. "I would like to apologize and send my regrets to Safeway, the Turkish Airlines Open, the fans in California and Turkey and those that had hoped to watch me compete on TV. This isn't what I wanted to happen, but I will continue to strive to be able to play tournament golf.

"I'm close, and I won't stop until I get there."

Woods last played on Aug. 23, 2015, at the Wyndham Championship. Two shots out of the lead going into the final round, he closed with a 70 and tied for 10th. A month later, he announced he had another operation on his back. Then, Woods had a third back surgery in October.

He missed all four majors for the first time in his career.

Johnny Miller, the tournament host at Silverado, said Woods pledged he would return to the Safeway Open next year if he is able. The Safeway Open is the first tournament in the PGA Tour's wraparound schedule.

"It is a huge impact on our tournament, the Safeway Open," Miller told Golf Channel. "Obviously, I wish Tiger the best. Everybody was so excited in the golf world and here in Northern California. ... I know there is a lot of pressure on Tiger after 14 months away from professional golf. The expectation and nervous level has got to be almost like when he played in his first L.A. Open when he was a kid.

"It is hard being Tiger Woods. It really is," Miller said. "Especially if he can't back it up with semblance of the old Tiger Woods. And everybody expects him to come back and play like he did in the year 2000. That is just not going to happen. He has got to break the ice sometime. I hope he picks the right spot."

Notah Begay, his closest friend in golf and a former Stanford teammate, said the withdrawal was surprising based on what they had talked about at the Ryder Cup. Begay took a week off from his broadcast duties at NBC Sports at Hazeltine to drive Woods' cart.

"It's not body-related," Begay told Golf Channel. "I just think it might be the in-between shots. ... As we all know, it is not just a succession of full shots that are required on the PGA Tour. You have to have the feel shots, the in-between shots. Just not having had enough time to get the reps in prior to would be my guess based upon my conversations with Tiger."

Woods was at Pebble Beach on Monday for a private event that benefits his foundation.

Tiger Woods wins Tour Championship for first PGA Tour title since 2013

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AP

Tiger Woods wins Tour Championship for first PGA Tour title since 2013

Tiger Woods' half-a-decade wait is over.

The former Stanford star broke out his Sunday red and won his first PGA Tour event in five years -- and his 80th overall -- after claiming the Tour Championship.

Woods finished the tournament at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta at 10 under par, one stroke ahead of second-place finisher Billy Horschel.

Woods opened the tournament with a blistering 65 on Thursday, and he shot another 65 Saturday after he birdied five consecutive holes on the front nine. The 42-year-old shot a 71 on Sunday, and held on to win despite bogeying twice on the back nine.

Woods improved to 54-4 when holding a share of the 54-hole lead, and 24-0 when leading by three or more shots entering the final day of competition. 

In addition, Woods just missed out on a major payday. He nearly finished as FedEx Cup champion -- which would've brought him $10 million -- but Justin Rose birdied the 18th hole to win that title. 

Vegas oddsmakers pegged Woods as a 9-1 favorite to win the Masters on Saturday, before he busted his slump. Now that he has a win under his belt, he might be even more of a favorite by the time April rolls around. 

Watch Tiger Woods: Tour Championship live stream, Round 4 tee times, odds

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Watch Tiger Woods: Tour Championship live stream, Round 4 tee times, odds

Tiger Woods hasn't won a PGA Tour event in five years. That could change for the former Stanford golf star on Sunday.

Woods enters the final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club with a three-shot lead, meaning that unless he has an epic meltdown, he'll claim his 80th PGA win and, possibly, an eight-figure paycheck. The golf world seems to be rooting for Tiger, the former world No. 1 golfer who could win the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus if he wins the Tour Championship and Justin Rose -- the current top-ranked golfer -- falls to fifth place or lower.

History is on Woods' side, as he's 53-4 in PGA Tour events when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead, per ESPN. Woods hasn't blown a three-shot-or-more lead in 23 times facing that situation.

Woods' previous PGA Tour win came at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has shown in recent majors that he has shaken his persistent back issues and is returning to form. Oddsmakers certainly believe in Tiger, with Vegas listing him as a -175 favorite to win Sunday. He's also favored to win next year's Masters with 9-1 odds, and should he fulfill those expectations, he'd be three titles shy of Jack Nicklaus' record 18.

While many sports fans will be watching NFL games Sunday, you can bet some will flip the channel to see if Tiger can close out a Tour Championship win. If you're one of those fans, here's how you can watch the Tour Championship, both on TV and online, and below that, we have the final-round tees for your reference.

When: Round starts at 11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT; live TV coverage begins at noon ET/9 a.m. PT

TV channel: Golf Channel (noon ET/9 a.m. PT to 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT), NBC (1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT to 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT)

Live stream: NBC Sports Live 

Sunday's tee times

All times Eastern/Pacific

11:45 a.m./8:45 a.m. -- Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson

11:55 a.m./8:55 a.m. -- Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson

12:05 p.m./9:05 a.m. -- Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari

12:15 p.m./9:15 a.m. -- Kevin Na, Patrick Cantlay

12:25 p.m./9:25 a.m. -- Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Smith

12:35 p.m./9:35 a.m. -- Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

12:45 p.m./9:45 a.m. -- Marc Leishman, Patton Kizzire

12:55 p.m./9:55 a.m. -- Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama

1:05 p.m./10:05 a.m. -- Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson

1:15 p.m./10:15 a.m. -- Gary Woodland, Xander Schauffele

1:25 p.m./10:25 a.m. -- Aaron Wise, Dustin Johnson

1:35 p.m./10:35 a.m. -- Tony Finau, Billy Horschel

1:45 p.m./10:45 a.m. -- Jon Rahm, Paul Casey

1:55 p.m./10:55 a.m. -- Justin Rose, Kyle Stanley

2:05 p.m./11:05 a.m. -- Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods