MEDINAH, Ill. — Tiger Woods entered and exited public view quickly Tuesday. But he remained at Medinah long enough to get briefed on the plan to renovate the courses at Chicago’s Jackson Park and South Shore.
Woods arrived shortly before 1:30 p.m. and said he’d give it a go at the BMW Championship, the second of three FedEx Cup playoff events on the PGA Tour. Woods will be first off the first tee in Wednesday’s pro-am, starting at 6:50 a.m. He is scheduled to meet with reporters after.
Woods has said that winning the Masters in April took a toll on his body, and he wasn’t kidding. He has teed it up only five times since, making two cuts. He withdrew from the Northern Trust last weekend with what he called a mild oblique strain.
Woods received physical therapy Tuesday afternoon before huddling with NBC/Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing, who is spearheading the $30 million-to-$60 million Jackson Park project, and his TGR Design duo of Bryon Bell and Beau Welling. TGR Design became the lead architect on the plan in December 2016 with the idea of building a course that could host a BMW Championship.
During the meeting Rolfing asked Woods if he remains committed.
According to those present, Woods replied: “Absolutely, I’m as interested as I’ve ever been. Let’s get this done. We have to make this happen.”
Rolfing and the TGR team later met with Ald. Leslie Hairston, who favors the plan.
“We have tried so hard to get investment on the South Side,” Hairston told the Tribune. “The reason I’m here is to see what that investment looks like, what it can bring. I came to the underbelly to see the setup. Carpentry, electricians, HVAC, all of that is done locally (for tournaments).”
Organizers hope she can help sway the mayor’s office. Rahm Emanuel was a strong advocate for the plan, but Lori Lightfoot has yet to voice approval, saying she’s “not wild about” what she has heard.
Hairston believes she can win the mayor over, saying she will walk Lightfoot around the South Shore Cultural Center to “separate fact from fiction.”
As for critics who are concerned about the course’s effect on a nature sanctuary, Hairston said: “It’s already a golf course. We’re not taking anything. We’re improving it. That’s where I kind of get offended. It’s like: How dare you want a quality golf course?”
Woods has said that two of his motivations are to work with former President Barack Obama, who personally asked him to get involved in the golf project, and to help disadvantaged kids in Chicago.
“If we can pull this off,” he said at the Masters in 2018, “I think it can benefit so many people on the South Side.”
Woods has a strong bond with Chicago, having won the Western Open at Cog Hill in 1997, 1999 and 2003.
Medinah also has been very good to Woods.
He entered the 1999 PGA Championship in a mini-drought, having fallen short in 10 majors since his breakthrough at the Masters in 1997. He held off a scissor-kicking Sergio Garcia to win by one. He crushed the field at the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah, winning by five strokes.
The 2012 Ryder Cup was not so kind. He lost all three of his team matches while paired with a hot-and-cold Steve Stricker and halved a singles match with Francesco Molinari that carried on after Europe had clinched the cup.
Woods, 38th in FedEx Cup points, needs to rise into the top 30 to have the chance to defend his Tour Championship title next week in Atlanta. He needs to finish solo 11th or better, according to the PGA Tour.
That’s a lot to ask from a 43-year-old whose body has been letting him down.
Asked if he believes Woods will get a boost from his terrific past at Medinah, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee replied: “Sure, a little. But I don’t think that will last very long. The last few times he has played, he has been really sluggish. His clubhead speed has gone from elite to really average. It’s tough to compete with these guys when you’re hobbled and swinging slow.”