By Sunday evening, hours after Tiger Woods had won his fifth Masters and first major golf tournament in 11 years, another question was already brewing:
Will Woods be coming back to Charlotte?
Woods, notoriously tight-lipped with his future plans, gave no indicators on Sunday at Augusta National. The 43-year-old told reporters his Masters win wouldn’t affect his 2019 schedule, although he did say he planned to play fewer tournaments this year than last.
“I’m not going to play as much as I did last year,” Woods told reporters. “I played a little bit too much last year because I kept trying to qualify for World Golf Championships events and the (FedExCup) playoffs. The playing schedule doesn’t change. I’m going to play a little bit less than I did last year.
“In the tournaments I do play in, I’ll be fully invested and committed to playing and trying to win.”
The only definite on Woods’ immediate schedule is the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in New York, where he’ll continue chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors. Woods previously won the 2002 U.S. Open on the same course. But with the PGA Championship moved to May — the major has only been played in May four times ever, and not since 1949 — that complicates any predictions about Wood’s future plans.
There are only four tournaments between now and the PGA Championship, starting at Hilton Head this weekend. The tour then moves to New Orleans for the Zurich Classic the last weekend in April.
The first weekend in May is the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, which Woods played in last year for the first time since 2012. Then there’s the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas the following weekend, and then the PGA Championship.
Lee Patterson, the Wells Fargo Championship’s communications director, said the tournament is always trying to bring the best golfers it can to Charlotte.
“We go to other golf tournaments earlier in the year and talk to players, talk to managers — it’s somewhat recruiting,” Patterson said. “There is an active conversation going on with a lot of players.”
While there’s a chance Woods skips every tournament between now and the PGA Championship, it would be unlikely for him to follow a major tournament win with such an extended absence. He almost certainly will bypass Dallas — Woods prefers not to play the weekend before a major — as well as Hilton Head this weekend. Which means ...
It’s entirely possible that Woods’ next tournament will be in Charlotte.
Patterson says Woods will make his decision in due time.
“Quite honestly, right now he’s enjoying (the Master’s win) with his family and friends and with himself. He’ll let the world know what his immediate future plans are, as it should be, when he’s ready,” Patterson said.
“Since the beginning of this tournament, we’ve always planned for the greatest players in the world to be here, so that plan has never changed.”
Woods won at Quail Hollow in 2007 and returned last year after a six-year hiatus, finishing tied for 55th at 3-over. And while he didn’t officially announce his intentions to play Quail Hollow until a week before the tournament, he was well received by fans. Afterward, he tweeted out how much it meant to him to return to Charlotte.
“Having not played at the (Wells Fargo Championship) in six years, it really meant a lot to me to receive so much love and support from the fans all week,” Woods wrote. “I won’t forget it, thanks again Charlotte.”
Now it’s just a matter of if that sentiment brings Woods back to Quail Hollow for the second year in a row. The entry deadline is 5 p.m. on April 26, the Friday before the tournament.
The field for this year’s tournament is already stacked, including 11 former major winners. That list includes Rory McIlroy, who won the Wells Fargo Championship in 2010 and 2015, as well as reigning champ Jason Day, Justin Thomas, who captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, and Sergio Garcia.
The Wells Fargo Championship will be played at Quail Hollow from May 2-5. Tickets are available online for the full tournament, as well as the practice rounds and other pre-tournament events.