PALM HARBOR — Every year at this time, Valspar Championship officials release a list of players committed to the tournament, those likely to commit and those who have not definitively said no. For the first time since it became a PGA Tour event in 2000, Tiger Woods is on the list.
"Really, this is the best chance," Valspar tournament director Tracy West said. "Actually, about winter of last year we thought perhaps maybe, but then that didn't happen. But if there was ever a time. I stay in constant contact with his agent, Mark Steinberg. We are still on the possibility list. At least we are not a no."
Woods has never played a PGA Tour event at Innisbrook. He did play on the Copperhead Course in 1999 when it was a mixed-team event. Woods will play next week at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles. He is not committed to any tournaments past that as of now.
West believes she will hear something either way in the days following the Genesis Open. If Woods does decide to play, it will spark a whole new set of logistics.
"I would suspect very early the week after Genesis we're going to know one way or another," West said. "His team knows that you don't just snap your fingers and be ready for Tiger. He does dramatically change your operation like no other player does. You have to change everything, your volunteers, how much food you have, your parking. Everything. He makes that big of a difference. A lot of players move the meter, he really moves the meter."
The field already has a few impressive commitments. Rory McIlroy will play for the first time. Defending Masters champion Sergio Garcia will play here for the first time since 2013. Bubba Watson is also expected to be in the field. Another player on the possibility list is 2015 champ Jordan Spieth. The tournament starts March 8.
Defending champ returns
Canadian Adam Hadwin flew from the West Coast to attend media day at Innisbrook on Thursday. In the morning he took batting practice at the Toronto Blue Jays' practice facility in Dunedin. He played nine holes on the Copperhead Course with Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson in the afternoon, then planned to attend the Lightning home game against Vancouver.
"Gotta root for the Canucks," Hadwin said.
This is the first time Hadwin has been back since winning the tournament in March. There are pictures of him on the streets heading to the Copperhead and signs at the entrances that read, "Welcome back, Adam."
"It brings back a lot of good memories," Hadwin said. "But it's also extremely weird to see my face on some of the posters. I've been joking around that you see Rory (McIlroy) and Dustin (Johnson), those are the guys you see on posters. But it's pretty neat. I just want to come back and play well again."
West would like to put a halt to some rumors she has heard about the tournament possibly moving back to the fall schedule as early as 2019.
"We are not moving to the fall, period," West said. "We are here through 2020 at the bare minimum. This tournament is on tremendous footing."
She did say it was possible the tournament shifts to a different week in March in the near future.
"One of the main reasons I chose golf was as an athlete I couldn't handle losing when I played well. I could play basketball or I could play baseball and I could go 4-for-4 with three stolen bases and two home runs and still lose the game. I had a very difficult time accepting that. So I went into a sport where if I didn't play well enough to win then I have to play better. It's all on me." — Hadwin
The Monday celebrity pro-am will continue to be closed to the public. It is mostly filled with current and former athletes. Two new players this year are former UCF/current Nebraska football coach Scott Frost and Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald. … This will be the third tournament since the greens and fairways were overhauled and a new drainage system was put in place. "I can't think of a time when the turf has been this good prior to the tournament," Innisbrook director of golf Bobby Barnes said.