Tiger Woods is ready to play more Florida golf.
In a surprising double-committment, Tiger Woods on Friday pledged to play both the Valspar Championship and the Bay Hill Invitational. The Sunshine State events will be staged back-to-back, with the Valspar beginning next Thursday and Bay Hill slated for the following week.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) March 2, 2018
Woods has never played the Valspar at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course, but with his surgically repaired back holding up well and his golf game improving, Woods added the new event with an eye on prepping for the Masters, which begins April 5. Rory McIlroy will also be making his first trip to the Valspar, where Adam Hadwin is the defending champion.
Woods committing to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational was much less of a shock.
Woods has won eight times at Bay Hill, with his last title coming as part of his five-win season 2013. That two-shot victory propelled him to No. 1 in the world, but thanks to his array of injuries and surgeries Woods hasn’t played it again since then.
Woods has been on a nice run since his return from back surgery in the Bahamas in December. Woods tied for ninth at the 18-man Hero World Challenge, then finished 23rd at Torrey Pines before missing the cut at Riviera. But last week, in his strongest showing yet, Woods placed 12th in tough conditions at the Honda Classic. He did not accumulate enough rankings points to qualify for the World Golf Championship field this week in Mexico City.
Woods no doubt has a special spot for Bay Hill, where his eight wins are tied with Firestone and Torrey Pines for the most of his career. Woods has also said that both of his children were born at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Children & Babies, and that he considered Arnold to be a good friend. Palmer died in September 2016 at the age of 87.
Woods will not qualify for the WGC match-play event on March 21, and because he traditionally skips the Houston Open one week before the Masters, Bay Hill will likely be his final event before Augusta.