Editor’s note: Palm Beach Post writer Craig Dolch will be on Golfweek’s Instagram Live Friday at 2 p.m. ET to discuss Tiger Woods’ return to play and this weekend’s event at Medalist Golf Club. Dolch also <a href=”

For golf fans, the world will inch toward normalcy Sunday when they finally see Tiger Woods hit a golf ball.

It will have been 98 days since we’ve seen his swing.

Not that it matters how well Woods plays in The Match: Champions for Charity at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound. This event, which features Woods and Peyton Manning taking on Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in a best-ball match, will raise more than $10 million for COVID-19 relief efforts.

But with Woods, it always matters what he does. Or, in this case, what he hasn’t done the past three months: play competitive golf.

Woods hasn’t written a number on his scorecard since Feb. 16, when he shot 77 to finish last among the players to make the cut in the Genesis Invitational he hosts at Riviera.

Woods skipped the first three tournaments of the four-event Florida Swing, including his hometown Honda Classic, because of back issues that have necessitated four surgeries and cost him years in his chase of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 career majors.

Woods insisted he would have been healthy to defend his Masters title in April, but the coronavirus pandemic made that a moot point.

So now he returns. But how strange will it be for Woods to smack his driver and not hear thousands of fans screaming their approval during this spectator-less match?

On the flip side, how sweet will it be to finally hear Woods’ comments during a round because the players will wear microphones? What’s the over/under on the number of barbs that will be exchanged between this foursome that has combined to win 20 majors and eight Super Bowls?

Woods doesn’t just move the needle. He can give it.

“There has been a little bit of trash talk already,” Woods said. “Whether it’s ‘I might need extra caddies to carry my Super Bowls,’ because he has more Super Bowls than my partner. Or, ‘I’ve got more majors than Phil, so I’m gonna have to have a truck come up to the first tee and U-Haul it out.’

“We like to give out the needle, and to give out the needle you gotta be able to take it. There will be banter back and forth, but it won’t be as rough as what we have in our text exchange.”

Tiger and Phil have been as close to a rivalry as golf has seen in the last two decades. Tiger has more majors (15 to 5) and PGA Tour titles (82 to 44), but Mickelson won their made-for-TV match in Las Vegas in 2018.

There won’t be any losers Sunday.

“This is different than what Phil and I did two years ago,” Woods said. “That was he and I just having a great time, trying to showcase golf in a different way. We’re coming together to showcase golf in a different way, but it’s about charity. That’s the reason why we’re all doing this.”

Picking a winner in a four-man best-ball match between two of the world’s greatest golfers – and two of the best NFL quarterbacks – is never easy.

Look at what happened in last Sunday’s TaylorMade Driving Relief at Seminole, where world No. 1 Rory McIlroy had to hit a wedge inside 18 feet on the last shot for him and Dustin Johnson to eke out a victory over underdogs Rickie Fowler and Matt Wolff at Seminole.

The NFL isn’t the only sport where “on any given Sunday” speaks the truth.

Yet Woods and Manning should be favored. The Medalist is Woods’ home course, the place where he plays most of his golf away from the PGA Tour. (A Medalist member said this week he doesn’t recall Mickelson playing there.)

Not only does Woods know every inch of real estate at the Medalist, the course even has tees named after him. Architect Bobby Weed put in place five “Tiger Tees” when he redesigned the course five years ago. They are on five par-4s (holes 1, 2, 9, 15 and 18), which average 494 yards and stretch the par-72 course to 7,515 yards from the tips.

These tees weren’t added just for Tiger, not with a membership that include bombers such as Johnson, Brooks Koepka, etc. But they’re called the Tiger Tees for a reason.

“We needed to make some accommodations for this generation of golfers that has taken the game to another level,” said Weed, a protégé of Pete Dye. Dye co-designed the Medalist with Greg Norman (a Medalist co-founder who was angered when he wasn’t asked to do the redesign).

“We don’t want these players to have to throttle back too much,” Weed said. “They can be as aggressive as they desire, which is interesting from an observer standpoint. Pete left behind a great footprint, and we have a good understanding of what it takes to challenge Tour players.”

No doubt Mickelson will be hitting bombs, as he loves to say, every chance he can Sunday, although there will be no fans for Lefty to give his customary thumbs-up after every good shot.

Sunday’s telecast by Turner Sports (3-7 p.m.) will make for interesting theater involving four athletes who are among the best in their respective sports.

It’s just the second time golf will be telecast from the Medalist. Nick Price beat Norman in a “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf” show in 1995.

It seems that long ago when we saw Woods twirl a club.





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