By Charles Jay
When it was confirmed that Tiger Woods would be returning to the PGA Tour this week, who would have known that he could actually be upstaged at the very first venue by somebody else. Yet, that is the case, although we say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
Events on the tour often carry with them a pro-am tournament the day before play officially starts, and the Safeway Open this week is no exception. Woods is being teamed up with none other than Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. Obviously this is a windfall for the tournament organizers, and the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, CA is expected to be the site of a mob scene of reporters for more than one reason.
As America’s Bookie patrons are well aware, of the two star athletes, Curry is the one who is in his prime. While TIger has not played competitive golf on tour for 14 months, Curry has won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award the last two seasons. And the long-range bomber and league-leading scorer is no stranger to this event; he played in it last season when it was known as the Frys.com Open, as he and teammate Andre Iguodala (MVP of the 2015 NBA Finals) played in a threesome with Justin Thomas. Iguodala will play with Thomas again this week.
It’s hard to tell what would satisfy Woods as he goes into the weekend. Remember that he has had two back surgeries since he last played, and he is allowing for plenty of time before he would be at the Masters, which is in April. He might just want to come out of this in one piece.
But he doesn’t want to be embarrassed either. To further demonstrate that the people from the tournament have a promoter’s spirit, they have paired Woods with Phil Mickelson, his long-time rival, in the first two rounds (Thursday and Friday).
He had better be on his game with Curry too, it would seem. The MVP is reportedly close to a scratch golfer, and frequently gets on the links. He and Iguodala experienced the thrill of a lifetime last summer, as Steve Kerr, the Warrior coach, arranged a round of golf for them at Augusta National as a reward for winning the NBA title.
Four rounds of golf at Augusta would seem to be Tiger’s eventual target at the moment.
Woods has recently served as a non-playing “vice-captain” for the U.S. Ryder Cup team that beat the Europeans, and was also named by Steve Stricker as a captain’s assistant for the 2017 President’s Cup competition.
Aside from Woods and Mickelson, standouts from the tour who are slated to play in the Safeway Open include Ricky Barnes, who tied for second place at the 2009 U.S. Open; Chad Campbell, who tied for second at the Masters that same year; Paul Casey, who has eight top-ten finishes in majors; former World Match Play champions Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan; past winners of major championships like Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Retief Goosen, Geoff Ogilvy, Webb Simpson, David Toms, and also past winners of this event, including Emiliano Grillo, Jonas Blixt and Bruce Molder.
Grillo, from Argentina, won last year’s tournament in a playoff, beating Kevin Na, who is back to take another shot at it.
What will be truly interesting is to see how much golf betting interest Woods draws when the odds for both the field and the matchups comes out this week from America’s Bookie.