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Tiger comeback becomes Tiger tease

By Doug Ferguson (AP Golf Writer)

Napa, Calif. – The Tiger comeback has become the Tiger tease.

And not just for golf fans.

It can’t be easy for Tiger Woods to feel healthy enough to play, only for the little voices in his head telling him to wait.

For all the speculation about what’s going on with Woods, only he knows why his game would be good enough to commit to the Safeway Open one day, and why three days later it was not. That wouldn’t seem to leave much time for what he said was “a lot of soul searching and honest reflection” before deciding to withdraw.

Woods said on Sept. 7 that he hoped to play this week in the Safeway Open at Silverado, along with the Turkish Airlines Open in early November and his Hero World Challenge the first week of December in the Bahamas. His progress following two back surgeries last year allowed him to make such plans, which looked more like a reality when he officially entered the Safeway Open on Friday.

He was gone before he was ever back.

The portable signs leading to Silverado flashed a warning to drivers to “expect delays” because of the golf tournament. Traffic isn’t likely to be an issue any longer. Wine tasting goes back to being the main event.

There was no shortage of apologies from Woods. He was fully aware of the ramifications. He said he had every intention of playing and wouldn’t have entered if he felt otherwise. “This isn’t what I wanted to happen,” he said.

It was the right decision because it was his decision.

Woods showed plenty of loyalty to the PGA Tour by also canceling in Turkey, which will attract a strong field as part of the final stretch of events in the Race to Dubai on the European Tour. That leaves the Bahamas as his next comeback, subject to change.

Most disconcerting to Woods is that according to his statement, this had nothing to do with his health, and everything to do with his confidence.

It’s one thing to say his game is not ready. It’s another to say his game is vulnerable.

Vulnerable to what – scoring or scrutiny?

The 14 months since Woods last played have been filled with mixed messages. Woods has used defeatist terms like “I’ve had a pretty good run” and saying anything else he accomplishes in golf “will be gravy.” Then again, he has never failed to express his desire to play again.

Jesper Parnevik, in an interview with Golf Digest in the November issue, said they have played nine holes at the Medalist Golf Club in Florida and “by the way, he’s been hitting a lot of balls, and he’s hitting it great.”