Tiger Woods looking forward to ‘fun’, spectator-free Masters defence

Tiger Woods has acknowledged his spectator-free Masters defence will constitute a “very different” experience, with the 2019 champion endorsing Augusta National’s decision to go ahead with the event minus the galleries.

The Masters, originally scheduled for April, will take place from 12 November. In keeping with the PGA Tour’s post-lockdown scene, crowds will not be permitted.

“Augusta will be very different,” said Woods. “When I first went there and had a chance to play in 1995, seeing it with no fans, it was eye-opening how much room there is. When you put 40,000 people on such a small piece of property, I know there’s no rough, but it gets confined. But this will be very different. This will be a fun Masters and I’m looking forward to defending.”

Woods does not, therefore, endorse the notion that Augusta should have followed the lead of the R&A, which postponed this year’s Open Championship because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “As far as them making the decision to play and have the event with no fans, that’s what we’re doing right now with the Tour,” said the 15-times major champion. “So that’s just a continuation of what we’ve had. We’ve been very fortunate to have had no real big incidents and outbreaks out here. We’ve had guys that have followed the isolation and have quarantined themselves and have got back out here effectively. So there’s no reason we can’t have the Masters.”

Woods probably needs a top-four finish at this week’s BMW Championship at Olympia Fields in Illinois to advance to the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake.

Sophia Popov, meanwhile, golf’s newest major champion, has admitted she afforded herself a two-year window in which to prolong her professional career. Popov, who won the Women’s Open at Troon on Sunday from the position of world No 304, has struggled with health problems.

“If you ask some of my family members or my boyfriend, they would tell you of multiple occasions where I was ready to hang it all up and say: ‘Maybe this is just not the way my life is supposed to be going.’” she said. “I ended up deciding that, with turning 28 this year, if nothing happens by the time I’m 30 we should look into some other stuff.