November 29, 2016

Tiger makes return to PGA TOUR at the Hero World Challenge

A year ago, Tiger Woods wasn’t sure if he could play competitive golf again. Recuperating from his third back surgery, Woods had trouble getting out of bed.

“I honestly didn’t know,” Tiger said.

Heeding the advice of his doctors and trainers, Woods didn’t rush his recovery, slowly regained his strength, muscle tone, stamina and endurance, and tweaked his swing.

It has been a long process that challenged his patience and work ethic more than ever before. But for the first time in 466 days, Tiger will return to competitive play Thursday in the Hero World Challenge at Albany in New Providence, Bahamas. The event features an elite 18-player field, including six of the top-10 players in the world ranking, and is hosted by the Tiger Woods Foundation.

“What most people don’t really understand is how much of a fraternity this tour [PGA TOUR] really is,” Woods said Tuesday. “The amount of dinners I’ve gone out to with the guys, the texts, the phone calls over these last 14, 15, 16 months. The guys wanted me back out here and helped me any way possible.”

Woods’ last tournament was the 2015 Wyndham Championship, where he tied for 10th.

Much has changed. Tiger rebranded his company, now called TGR, can use any equipment he wants and has new sponsor Monster Energy on his golf bag. After months of testing, he will play 2008 Nike irons, TaylorMade woods and a Bridgestone 330S ball. Woods will also use the Scotty Cameron putter that helped him win the 1997 Masters and 13 of his 14 major titles.
Through it all, one thing drove his comeback: He missed competing.
“I love playing against these guys and miss being out here,” Tiger said. “It’s fun.”

He owns 79 PGA TOUR wins, second only to Sam Snead with 82. His 14 majors are second only to Jack Nicklaus with 18.

Woods hopes to increase both totals. How much he competes will depend on his back.

“Would I like to play a full schedule for the next decade-plus? Yeah, that would be great,” he said. “Can I? I don’t know. I’m going to do everything I can.”

Back aside, Tiger said his biggest concern is controlling his excitement and energy. 

“I haven’t had adrenaline in my system for a while,” said Woods, who typically hits the ball a half-club longer when he is pumped up.

Admittedly, Woods will be nervous.

“Of course,” he said. “I care about what I do.”

Tiger has been playing practice rounds at the Medalist Club near his home in Jupiter, Florida, with TOUR players and friends. Caddie Joe LaCava has often accompanied him to get used to walking again.

An assistant captain for the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team in September, Woods will be paired with Yank hero Patrick Reed in the first round Thursday. They tee off at noon ET.

There is no cut in the 72-hole event, and all four rounds will be carried live on Golf Channel.

Woods’ goal hasn’t changed.

“I am going to try and win this thing,” he said. “I know that’s a tall order being away from the game for so long, but the mindset is still the same.”