Tiger Woods, who will compete in the Memorial Tournament starting Thursday after his longest break from the PGA Tour since the 2017 season, could set the all-time record for tour wins if he captures the event in Dublin, Ohio.
Woods and the late Sam Snead are tied with a record 83 tour wins. Woods matched Snead's mark at Zozo Championship on Oct. 27 in Chiba, Japan.
Woods sits just outside of the top-five betting favorites to win the Memorial, despite a history of subpar returns from long breaks. He missed the cut in his first official tournament when he came back from the 2017 hiatus, which was caused by multiple back surgeries.
Woods will participate Thursday in his first official PGA Tour event since February's Genesis Invitational.
The 15-time major championship winner finished 68th -- and in last place -- at that tournament. He then teamed up with former NFL star Peyton Manning to beat Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson in a charity golf event while the PGA Tour season was suspended due to the coronavirus.
Most PGA Tour stars returned for the season June 11, but Woods has missed all five events since then.
"I just felt it was better to stay at home and be safe," Woods told reporters Tuesday, when asked about his break.
"I'm used to playing with lots of people around me or having lots of people have a direct line to me, and that puts not only myself in danger but my friends and family, and just been at home practicing and social distancing and being away from a lot of people," he said.
The Memorial was to be the first tournament with spectators since the PGA Tour season resumed, but that plan was canceled July 6.
Woods also missed three events before the season was suspended. He said he wasn't "as sharp" as he wanted to be after he took the break following the Genesis Invitational. He cited back stiffness when he missed the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the final event before the tour was suspended.
"I feel so much better than I did then," Woods said Tuesday.
Woods said he became healthier, trained and concentrated on his return during the break. He played a practice round Tuesday with world No. 3 Justin Thomas, but he could be a bit rusty this week based on his past performances after layoffs.
Woods struggles after layoffs
Woods finished 37th in the BMW Championship in August before he teed off his 2019-2020 season campaign with a win at the Zozo Championship two months later.
His previous layoffs haven't been as kind to him as the two-month break between last season and the start of this season. Woods won the 2018 Tour Championship, but placed 27th in the Farmers Insurance Open about four months later.
He finished 23rd at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open when he came off a year break after missing the cut at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open. Woods tied for 10th at the 2015 Wyndham Championship before he missed 17 months prior to the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open.
His longest break from official PGA Tour events before the 2016 and 2017 hiatus was a six-month span between the 2013-2014 season and the 2014-2015 campaign, an absence tied do back issues.
Woods missed the cut or withdrew from four of six tournaments before he returned to miss the cut at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Oddsmakers at Caesars and BetOnline.AG have Woods ranked among their top-10 favorites to win in Dublin despite his track record after layoffs.
Woods is grouped with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and No. 6 Brooks Koepka for the first and second rounds at the Memorial. McIlroy and Koepka have each participated in three of the four tournaments since the season resumed.
Caesars has McIlroy tied with Thomas as the second-best bet to win the Memorial (+1100). That means a bettor would win $1,100 -- plus their original bet -- if they placed a $100 wager on Thomas or McIlroy.
BetOnline.AG has Thomas as the second-best bet to win at +1100, with McIlroy tied with Patrick Cantlay as the third-best bet at +1400.
Both sites have No. 7 Bryson DeChambeau as the favorite to win at +1000.
Caesars has Woods tied with world No. 2 Jon Rahm and No. 23 Hideki Matsuyama as the seventh favorite to win the tournament at +2000. BetOnline.AG also lists Woods at seventh at +2200 and tied with Koepka, Morikawa and Viktor Hovland.
Woods' last win at the Memorial Tournament came in 2012 in Dublin. He is a five-time winner of the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event.
First-round live coverage for featured groups at the Memorial begins at 7:15 a.m. EDT Thursday and airs on PGA Tour Live. TV coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. EDT Thursday on the Golf Channel.
Copyright © UPI, 2021. All Rights Reserved.