The Tiger Woods comeback tour continues this week with a brand new stop. We’re not used to seeing Woods play in Tampa, but that’s where he will tee it up for the first time in more than two decades, back when he played in something called the JC Penney Classic.
Woods added the Valspar Championship to his schedule last Friday, committing to both the Tampa tourney and Bay Hill next week. We expected Bay Hill. He’s won there eight times and it’s a staple on his schedule, even though he hasn’t played there since 2013 due to injuries. But Tampa was a new frontier and a welcome one for the Big Cat, who was last seen getting dialed in at the Honda Classic two weeks ago. Given the taste of what we got there, we wanted to see more, and see it soon. Tiger agreed, and now he’ll have played four times in a five-week span. That should complete his full pre-Masters schedule and will have him, ideally, primed for Augusta for the first week of April.
Here’s a look at the schedule of events so you can watch all the action.
All times Eastern; streaming start times approximated
Rounds 1-2 — Thursday and Friday
Round starts: 6:45 a.m.
Featured groups: 6:45 a.m. – 3 p.m. — PGA Tour Live
Featured holes: 3-6 p.m. — PGA Tour Live
Live TV coverage: 2-6 p.m. on Golf Channel
Live stream online: 2-6 p.m. on fuboTV (Try for free) and NBCSports.com
Radio: Noon-6 p.m. on PGA Tour Radio
Round 3-4 — Saturday and Sunday
Round starts: 7 a.m.
Early TV coverage: 1-3 p.m. on Golf Channel
Live TV coverage: 3-6 p.m. on NBC
Live simulcast: 3-6 p.m. on fuboTV (Try for free) and NBCSports.com
We’re not fully sure what to expect from Tiger at this Innisbrook Copperhead course. Woods doesn’t fully know either, just that he expects the winds to be a factor and he’s going to have to shape shots in a bunch of different directions. That fact that the unpredictability is mostly caused by an unfamiliarity with the course and not, say, a back that makes him hobble off every tee, is a dramatic improvement from recent years. Tiger wants to win, of course, but these Florida swing events are just about getting more competitive “reps” as he’d say before the season’s first major. With Tiger not qualified for the WGCs, and his usual practice of never playing the week before a major, the Tampa stop became a real possibility for his schedule.
It’s obviously a massive boost for an event that has a bit of a cult following. They also have Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Sergio Garcia in the field this week. Tampa was once the forgotten stop of the Florida swing, falling in a brutal spot between a WGC and Arnold Palmer’s event at Bay Hill. They even struggled to find a title sponsor there and went by the Tampa Bay Championship at one point. This year, it will be must-watch with just four more events to go before the Masters.
Tiger will tee off at 12:46 p.m. ET alongside Spieth and Henrik Stenson. That will obviously be the marquee afternoon group in the first round so expect PGA Tour Live to carry the start of it from the very first tee shot. Golf Channel will then swoop in for the rest of the round beginning at 2 p.m. Here’s your media schedule for the opening round at the Valspar Championship:
Following a thriller in Mexico last week, the PGA Tour returns to Florida for a two-tournament swing. Next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational will be terrific, but this week’s Valspar Championship could be even better. Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson will all play in Palm Harbor, Florida, and Woods and McIlroy will be visiting for the first time.
This tournament has always been sort of sneaky good at this slot in the golf season, but now it has the field to prove it. Woods is obviously the showstopper, but Spieth and McIlroy playing here just a month before the Masters is also a huge deal. And we’ll get to watch it all go down starting on Thursday.