Tiger Woods will play the Valspar Championship for the first time, announcing via Twitter on Friday morning that he has added the Palm Harbor, Florida, tournament to his schedule. He also said he will play the following week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Woods, 42, is coming off a 12th-place finish at the Honda Classic, his third official event since returning from spinal fusion surgery last April.
This will give Woods what likely will be his last two starts before the Masters.
“I’ve been away from tournament golf for so long that I’m starting to feel the rounds,” Woods said Sunday following the Honda. “I’m starting to get into it quicker, feel the pace, feel the shots and get a better sense of it. The more I play tournament golf, the better I’ll get.”
Despite those words, it was never a certainty that Woods would add the tournament.
Valspar tournament director Tracy West she heard from Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, about 30 minutes before the announcement and put into motion a plan that tournament organizers had been working on for weeks just in case the 14-time major champion committed.
As part of that plan, the tournament will open up 6,000 more parking spots and is ready to accommodate 12,000 to 15,000 extra spectators per day. It is possible, she said, that sellouts could be declared depending on demand.
“This is great for us, and we’ve put together a plan with hopeful anticipation,” West said. “The Copperhead is not the Phoenix Open, it’s not even the Honda; our golf course has only so much room, so we have to do what we can to comfortably balance the excitement of him coming but not making it too crazy so that people don’t enjoy it.”
It was long expected that Woods would play the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has not competed since the last of his eight victories at Bay Hill in 2013. Four back surgeries have kept him out of that event since winning that tournament.
Adding the Valspar means Woods will play four of five weeks following the Genesis Open, where he missed the cut, and the Honda Classic. That is considered a good sign given all his health issues. It also assures him of at least four competitive rounds and as many as eight before he plays the Masters next month for the first time since 2015.
Woods has never competed in the Valspar event, played at the Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course — where in 1996 he did play in the old JCPenney Classic, a mixed-team event featuring PGA and LPGA players. It was a few months into his pro career. He finished second in the tournament with Kelli Kuehne, an amateur at the time who needed a special waiver to be allowed to play that year.
The tournament became a full-field men’s PGA Tour event in 2000 and was played in the fall for several years until moving to the spring in 2008. Since then, it has never fit into Woods’ schedule.
But since he is ineligible for this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in three weeks, his choices to add events were limited.
The Valspar event also has commitments reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose.