MONTGOMERY, Texas — Tiger Woods celebrated the official opening of his first U.S. golf course design Bluejack National on Monday but did little to clear up the question of when the former World No. 1 will play professional golf again.
He repeatedly declined to say when he would rejoin the PGA Tour but added an interesting sidebar. He said the five-plus holes he played at Bluejack were his first since he missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship and later underwent two back surgeries.
“These are the first holes I’ve played since last August,” he said several times while playing the course with good friend and Bluejack representative Mark O’Meara.
When asked about multiple reports saying he had been playing extensive golf at Medalist, his home course in Florida, Woods added, “just because it was in the media that doesn’t make it true. I felt a little tired, but I was pleased with today. I still have to get stronger and faster.” Woods also told ESPN that “I would not have said I would be here like this five months ago.”
While some reports said Woods could return as early as next week on the PGA Tour, his comments Monday seem to cast extreme doubt on that. It was also reported on Monday that Woods took the procedural step of registering for the U.S. Open earlier in April.
“It’s great to see the kid,” said O’Meara, who was once Woods’ closest friend on the PGA Tour. “I don’t see him much anymore, but we got to sit and talk at the Masters Champions Dinner and I get to see him here. I hope he is happy.”
NBC/Golf Channel commentator David Feherty, who was a first-hand witness to some of Woods’ greatest rounds on Tour, served as the master of ceremonies for the grand opening and also performed his one-man comedy show for 600 invited guests and members.
“What a group, what a reunion,” said Feherty, who said he hadn’t seen Woods in person for months.
But if Woods hasn’t played any real golf since last fall, his opening performance certainly didn’t show much rust. After a brief warm-up on the range, he moved over to the first tee with O’Meara and other Bluejack officials. Woods split the middle of the new first fairway hitting a full Nike driver. He then moved over and played holes 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18, hitting driver multiple times. His most impressive moment came on the par-5 11th, when he reached the green of the 637-yard hole in two after landing another massive drive in the fairway.
“I still have a long ways to go,” he told ESPN. “(But) I’m on the back side. I’m getting better, but I’m also getting closer to feeling better every day.”
Woods was one of the last to arrive, being driven to the temporary Bluejack clubhouse in a large, white four-door SUV. O’Meara was waiting on the front steps and gave Woods a prolonged bear hug. Feherty was already inside the clubhouse and waiting in a private room for a 15-minute talk, which was described as two friends catching up after months apart.
Woods walked easily and without a limp, and after meeting with his friends he was driven in a cart to the practice area. Throughout the four-hour ceremony, Woods was surrounded by those friends who have been around him the longest and have stuck with him through the many ups and downs of his career.
Also in attendance Monday were Byron Bell, the president of Tiger Woods Design, and longtime agent Mark Steinberg. Michael Abbott, managing partner of Beacon Land Development, who has known Woods since he came to the Four Season Resorts near Dallas at age 16 to see Byron Nelson and later played in Nelson’s namesake PGA Tour event, served as his driver and host.
“It’s great to be here,” Bell said. “I came in last night and was glad Tiger could make it today. We’ve been here so much. To have it finally done is very fulfilling.”
Construction started in the spring of 2014 after Abbott and developer Lateran Asset Management selected Woods as the designer from a large group of applicants, one of which was Texan Ben Crenshaw. Woods has made a half dozen visits to Bluejack, 45 minutes north of downtown Houston, spending extra time here because he was injured and unable to play on the PGA Tour.
The course opened the first six holes in November and opened the practice area and short game par-3 course in March. The latter is where Woods watched the first shot ever taken, by a Texas junior player, go in for an ace.
Woods returned Monday to christen the entire 18 holes of the par-72 course, but it’s still unknown when he’ll return to the Tour.
“I’m not hitting it very far right now,” Woods told ESPN. “I still have a lot more to go in the tank as far as speed, which is great. I’m able to hit the ball as far as I am right now just cruising. Then trying to work on new drivers, too, at the same time. That’s kind of a test. … I haven’t set any date to when I’m playing again, which is frustrating to say. But to be honest with you, that’s what I’ve had to do. I’ve had to go with that mindset. Would I have said that five months ago? No way. I couldn’t imagine then feeling like I do right now.”