Tiger Woods changes direction, announces withdrawal from Safeway Open

Tiger Woods’ comeback will have to wait.

The 14-time major-winner announced on Monday that he is withdrawing from this week’s Safeway Open and will no longer play in November’s Turkish Airlines Open either.

 “After a lot of soul searching and honest reflection, I know that I am not yet ready to play on the PGA Tour or compete in Turkey,” Woods said on his website. “My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be.

“When I announced last week I was going to Safeway, I had every intention of playing, or I wouldn’t have committed. I spent a week with the U.S. Ryder Cup team, an honor and experience that inspired me even more to play. I practiced the last several days in California, but after a lot of hours, I knew I wasn’t ready to compete against the best golfers in the world. I will continue to work hard and plan to play at my foundation’s event, the Hero World Challenge, in Albany.

“I would like to apologize and send my regrets to Safeway, the Turkish Airlines Open, the fans in California and Turkey and those that had hoped to watch me compete on TV. This isn’t what I wanted to happen, but I will continue to strive to be able to play tournament golf. I’m close, and I won’t stop until I get there.”

About 30 minutes before Woods made the announcement, his close friend Notah Begay said on the Golf Channel that Woods plans to withdraw from the Safeway, which was set to be Woods’ return to competitive golf for the first time in 14 months.

“After talking with him this morning, he just didn’t feel like his game was where he wanted it to be,” Begay said, “so he’s going to defer for the next couple of months and hope to come back in the future.”

The Safeway Open, in Napa, Calif., is the start of the 2016-17 PGA Tour schedule. Woods said in September that he “hopes” to play in the Safeway but didn’t officially commit until Friday, the deadline for any player to enter a PGA Tour event. There were reports he would be paired with Phil Mickelson for the first two rounds and even play in the pro-am Wednesday with Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry.

On Thursday, one week before the tournament’s opening round, Safeway Open executive director Jeff Sanders told GOLF.com that ticket sales had already doubled when compared to last year’s Frys.com Open (now the Safeway). With Woods in the field, Sanders said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if ticket sales tripled by Sunday of the final round.

Woods announced in September he was targeting three 2016 tournaments for his return, the Safeway Open, Turkish Airlines Open and the Hero World Challenge, his foundation’s event, on Dec. 1-4.

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