Tiger Woods is back. He’s not back playing on the PGA Tour, but he is back in public at the Hero World Challenge for the first time since his car accident last February. This comes on the heels of the surprise swing video he posted, along with the cryptic message, “Making progress,” that set off a Tiger-related frenzy on social media.
There was a time when Tiger didn’t know if he’d ever walk again, let alone tee it up in a pro golf event. But given that these are the first two official recovery updates we’ve received directly from the 15-time major champion, it’s finally time to ask the question: when will Tiger Woods make his PGA Tour return?
We’ve played this game before during previous comeback attempts Woods has mounted following an injury, most notably in 2018, which culminated with his historic fifth Masters title in April 2019. But this time is different.
The injuries Tiger sustained in his car crash following the Genesis Invitational were more severe than anything he’s dealt with in the past. In his Hero press conference on Tuesday and in an interview with Golf Digest, Woods even said that there was serious concern early on his right leg might have to be amputated.
But now he’s walking and swinging again, albeit not at full steam, with plenty of recovery left to go.
“I’ll put it to you this way,” Woods said at his Hero presser. “As far as playing at the Tour level, I don’t know when that’s going to happen.”
While he didn’t announce when he was aiming to make his return, Woods did reveal that he does plan on trying to make it happen, but that any possible comeback would look different, likely seeing him play in only “a few events a year.”
“I think something that is realistic is playing the Tour one day — never full time, ever again — but pick and choose, just like Mr. [Ben] Hogan did,” Woods told Golf Digest. “Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that. You practice around that, and you gear yourself up for that. I think that’s how I’m going to have to play it from now on.”
Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour
With the context now laid out, it’s time to tackle the question at hand: where (and when) will Tiger finally make his return to competition? It’s pure speculation at this point, but his comments make it almost certain that, barring another injury setback, we will see Tiger on the course again.
Here are four tournaments where Tiger could make his long-awaited return, ranked from least-likely to most-likely.
4. 2022 Farmers Insurance Open
The Farmers Insurance Open used to be Tiger’s traditional start to a new year on Tour. Part of that is because of its location early on the schedule, and part of that is because he’s dominated the host course, Torrey Pines’ South, over his career to the tune of eight victories, including the 2008 U.S. Open.
In a normal year, you could bet the house that this would be the week we saw Tiger for the first time. But given the dates of the tournament, Jan. 26-29, it’s hard to imagine Tiger being ready in time to go for a ninth win at Torrey. So he (and we) will probably have to wait a little bit longer.
3. 2022 Genesis Invitational
Three weeks after the Farmers Insurance Open is the 2022 Genesis Invitational, hosted by Woods. Though we will definitely see him that week, whether or not he’ll be playing is another question. The Genesis is the last place we saw Tiger speak publicly before the Hero World Challenge, with his car accident happening nearby two days after the tournament.
As host, it would be a fitting place for Tiger to make his return. But Riviera Country Club is one of the toughest tests on Tour, one that the tournament host has struggled on throughout his career. It also suffers from a similar problem as the Farmers in that its start date of Feb. 17 seems a little too soon for Tiger’s body and game to be Tour-ready.
2. 2022 Masters
Now we come to the two tournaments where our chances of seeing Tiger compete are far higher, starting with the 2022 Masters. As far as his golf career is concerned, the majors are far and away the most important events to Tiger. His fame and fortune were built upon his dominant performance in majors, especially at the Masters.
It likely made him sick missing all four majors last year, so if his game is ready you can bet he will tee it up at Augusta National. You could argue that if he were ready in time for the Masters, Tiger might return at a regular Tour event first to shake off the rust before taking on Augusta National. And that very well may happen.
But Tiger has made a comeback at the Masters before, in 2010 following the scandal. His result that week? T4. So he’s proven both the willingness to make a big comeback there (although this one would be much different), and that he can do so successfully.
1. 2022 Open Championship
There’s no telling just how long Tiger’s road to recovery will be, after all there’s no guarantee he’ll ever play on Tour again. If his recovery timeline gets pushed back a little further than he’d like, one of the best guesses as to where he will finally return is the 2022 Open Championship in July.
The 2022 Open will be played at the Home of Golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews. Every golfer on the planet wants to play the Open at St. Andrews, so it provides enough incentive on its own, but more so for Tiger, who has won two of his three Opens on the Old Course.
Tiger also complained about lost yardage off the tee during his Hero World Challenge presser. Given the Old Course’s relatively short length compared to typical Tour courses, its wide fairways and the importance it places on players’ short games, this is the week we are most likely to see Tiger tee it up in competition again.
Original article by Kevin Cunningham on Golf.com