Tiger Woods of the United States and Jordan Spieth of the United States laugh on the practice range during round three of the 2016 Hero World Challenge. (Photo by Christian Petersen)
By Alex Myers
Tiger Woods’ first appearance in the Valspar Championship got an extra jolt of excitement on Tuesday when Jordan Spieth was announced as one of his Thursday-Friday playing partners. Oh, yeah, the group’s third player, Henrik Stenson, is pretty decent, too.
The star-studded trio will tee off at 12:46 p.m. (ET) on Thursday and 7:56 a.m. on Friday. Woods will be playing his fourth PGA Tour event of 2018 and trying to build on his 12th-place finish at the Honda Classic in his most recent start.
Woods and Spieth have been paired in seven previous PGA Tour rounds and to say the youngster has gotten the better of the matchup would be kind. Spieth has beaten Woods head-to-head on six of those occasions while tying him the other, shooting more than five shots lower (69.0 to 74.29) than the 14-time major champ in those meetings.
It doesn’t help that Woods shot his second-worst round as a pro the last time the two played together at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Woods struggled mightily with his short game, posting an 82 and leading many to speculate he’d developed a strong case of the yips.
This season, Spieth has uncharacteristically struggled on the greens so far this season. The three-time major champ ranks sixth in strokes gained: tee-to-green and fourth in strokes gained: around-the-green, but only 163rd in strokes gained: putting. His best finish in six starts was a solo ninth at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Stenson is making his first PGA Tour start of 2018, however, he finished T-2 at this season’s HSBC Champions in October.
After sitting out nearly all of 2017 and undergoing a fourth back surgery last April, Woods returned to competition with a T-9 at the Hero World Challenge in December. He finished T-23 at the Farmers Insurance Open in the first official PGA Tour start of this latest comeback and missed the cut at the Genesis Open before his strong finish at the Honda Classic.