There were emotional scenes when Tracey Stewart, the Australian-born wife of the late Payne Stewart, hugged and thanked Tiger Woods at the unveiling of Woods’ new design project in Missouri today.
Stewart and Woods were the guests of honour at Big Cedar Lodge on the outskirts of Springfield at the naming of Payne’s Valley Golf Club.
Stewart, born in Springfield, won two US Opens and a US PGA Championship before his death in a 1999 plane crash shortly after he and Woods were members of the victorious USA Ryder Cup team.
“I grew up on a par-three course in Long Beach, California,” Woods said.
“It was lit at night, just like most of the people were. We didn’t have a whole lot of money and that’s where I learned how to play, so for me to be able to design a public course, that’s near and dear to my heart.
“To have an opportunity to represent Payne and his entire family and what he has meant to the state of Missouri, the Ozarks, it’s an honour for me.”
Tracey Stewart was on hand and there was an emotional moment when Woods hugged her.
“I express my gratitude for what you are doing to honour Payne,” she said.
“This area meant so much to him. His sisters still live here in Springfield. I know he is looking down from heaven today and he is so proud.”
The 41-year old Woods was then cheered on as he hit just wedge shots into a stunning par-three laid out in front of a steep cliff face and waterfall.
Woods missed the green with his opening wedge shot falling short into water.
“The first shot was crap, hit it in the water,” Woods said.
His second try drew applause with Woods hitting the ball to within tap-in distance.
It was Woods’ first appearance with a golf club in hand since he shot a 77 on day of February’s Dubai Desert Classic before withdrawing.
While Woods did not comment on any planned return, he did provide a health update.
“I have good days and bad days,” he said.
“I’ve had three back operations and that’s the nature of the business unfortunately. That’s all I can say.”