Graeme McDowell reckons the incredible interest in Tiger Woods’ latest comeback proves the 15-time Major winner is almost bigger than the game itself.
Just 10 months after almost losing his right leg in a car crash, Woods will tee it up with his son Charlie (12) in the $1.08 million PNC Championship at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando on Saturday and Sunday with Pádraig Harrington and his son Paddy also in the 20-team field.
“We are all curious to see how healthy he looks,” said McDowell, who plans to return to action at the Sony Open in Hawaii on January 13. “It’s exciting and it will be great to see him back as he is golf, and he is the PGA Tour. It’s just amazing to have him back.”
With his PGA Tour exemption for winning the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship running out at the end of the 2021-’22 season, McDowell will be focusing on the US circuit, but like many of the world’s biggest stars, he’s waiting to see if the PGA Tour gives him a release to play February’s controversial Saudi International.
“I am not planning to play anything in the Middle East apart from the Saudi International with the PGA Tour being my main focus,” said the Portrush man (42), who will play the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines before the Saudi event. “I am contracted to go to Saudi, and I will go there if permitted.”
The LPGA Tour season does not begin for Leona Maguire until the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio on January 27, but she will finish 2021 with two pieces of silverware after the European Solheim Cup team edged out US Open champion Jon Rahm for the 2021 Golf Writers’ Trophy after a vote by the Association of Golf Writers.
She won four-and-a-half points on her debut as Europe won on US soil for only the second time.
Meanwhile, Golf Ireland yesterday released an innovative 2022 schedule featuring the newly created Irish Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, which will be played alongside the men’s event at Blainroe (September 25) as well as an Irish Disability Championship.
The East of Ireland (June 4-6) returns to Baltray after a two-year hiatus with the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open at The Island (May 12-15), the AIG Irish Women’s Close at Grange (June 11-14), the AIG Men’s Close at Headfort (August 13-17) and the AIG Inter-Club Finals at Tramore (September 1-4), Slieve Russell (September 7-11) and Knightsbrook (September 15-18).