Tiger to play gallery-free early in playoff opener

Tiger knows he has to take it easy with practice schedule (1:33)

Tiger Woods acknowledges he has to be smart about his back and take things day by day. (1:33)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Tiger Woods is used to seeing a big crowd of spectators surrounding the first tee box and lining the fairway ropes when he begins play in a tournament.

On Thursday morning, he will be greeted by a few volunteers, officials, media and a lot of empty space at Liberty National.

The site of the Northern Trust tournament was hit by a heavy storm Wednesday afternoon, and grandstands, hospitality venues, signage and tents were damaged. Although the grounds crew was working overnight to get the golf course playable, there was enough damage to spectator areas that PGA Tour officials decided Wednesday night to keep spectators from entering until 10 a.m. ET Thursday.

That means players such as Woods, who begins the first round of the FedEx Cup playoff opener at 7:43 a.m., probably will play about nine holes without any spectators on the grounds.

The first round is scheduled to begin at 7:10 a.m.

"We're an outdoor sport, so Mother Nature is bound to show up and change our well-laid plans on occasions,'' Julie Tyson, executive director of the tournament, said in a statement.

The PGA Tour reported there were no injuries at Liberty National, despite heavy rain and winds that gusted up to 60 mph. The forecast calls for the weather to improve, with a small chance of rain and high temperatures in the 80s over the weekend.