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Another Year, Another Bay Hill Event Without Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods To Sit Out Arnold Palmer Invitational
Tiger Woods announced that he would not be in the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, placing a big question mark on whether he'll attend the 2015 Masters.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Here are my top nine Tiger Thoughts as we get ready for another Arnold Palmer Invitational without eight-time champion Tiger Woods:

Fun with flags: Skipping the Bay Hill event is a major red flag. Tiger has won eight times here, you feel like he could play this event blindfolded and figure out a way to get into contention. He’s got a comfort level here. The fact that he isn’t playing, whatever the reason, is a real concern…

Magnolia Lame: Since we’re in the red flag zone with Tiger, we can’t ignore the previously unthinkable possibility that he might skip the Masters, too. That doesn’t seem likely, given Tiger’s place in history, but Tiger’s place in today’s game is getting more and more precarious. Hasn’t he attended more ski races than golf tournaments this year? Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Houston, we’ve got a problem: Might Tiger be a late entry at the Shell Houston Open in an attempt to get a few reps, as Tiger likes to call them, before he goes to Augusta? That wouldn’t be a bad plan. Tiger isn’t like any other player, however. He’s Elvis. He’s the Beatles. The circus frenzy he’d create by playing there would probably not be conducive to accomplishing what he wants, to get ready. What sounds more like Masters prep -- full-on Tigermania in Houston where he’s dogged everywhere from the hotel to the course and back to the hotel, or three or four quiet midweek practice rounds at Augusta National and some serious Ranger Rick work on what is America’s best practice facility? Yeah, that one…

The process server: One thing we’ve learned from Tiger’s previous coaching regime changes is that he apparently needs a lot of reps to make adjustments. Some could call him a slow learner, but that trivializes his need to cement new swing thoughts. This time, Woods has not only switched coaches, going from Sean Foley to Chris Como, he’s trying to do it while sandwiching the changes around assorted injuries, including his back surgery last year and his deactivated glutes at Torrey Pines. Changing coaches? A difficult process. Playing hurt or adjusting the swing to allow for injured/aging body parts? That’s the kind of thing that can end careers. Due to a lack of facts, we don’t know where Tiger is. Pal Notah Begay says Tiger is working hard on his game in Florida, so hopefully that means his back is not an issue…

Yippy-ki-yay, Mother Nature: We don’t know for sure whether Tiger succumbed to a case of the chipping yips in Phoenix and Torrey Pines or whether he’s suffering from poor technique, related to changing coaches. In Phoenix, it sure looked like the former. The lightning fast, severely sloped greens of Augusta National would be the last place you’d want to try to play through actual chipping yips. One biffed chip and yeow, the mental floodgates of bad karma would open and it could turn cataclysmic. Think The Keymaster, Zuul the Gatekeeper of Gozer and Ghostbusterish repercussions like dogs and cats living together. Not good. Vijay Singh hit some chips crosshanded last weekend at Valspar Championship, so he’s fighting it, too. Besides Bernhard Langer and maybe Johnny Miller, who else has looked any kind of yips in the eye and came back to win golf tournaments? Um…

Nah, I’m good: After Tiger’s U.S. Amateur victory at Newport, Earl Woods toasted his son at the post-win celebration by saying, “Someday, Tiger is going to win 14 major championships.” Fourteen, not 18? That’s what Earl said way back when. So, mission accomplished…

Heavy medal: Golf in the 2016 Olympics is probably not going to be canceled because Tiger seems unlikely to qualify for the U.S. team. Note I said, ‘Probably’…

Suspension bridge: We know where the unfounded story about Tiger being suspended for a failed drug test originated, a club pro on a radio show. But where did he get that information? Based on what? The PGA Tour even stepped out of character to categorically deny it. We all saw him hurting at Torrey Pines. Was that part of a master cover-up plan? I really don’t buy into this rumor for a second…

The Tooth Fairy: At least we’re not still talking about The Tooth, the previous biggest non-story of the year. That’s progress, but hey, it’s a process…

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