December 29, 2017

Tiger’s Blog: Reflecting on 2017

Happy Holidays!

Before I begin, I want to thank everyone for their well wishes and support. I don’t think I would be where I am now without that. It’s been a year filled with ups and downs, but I am very optimistic about 2018 and looking forward to great things on and off the golf course.

I was very encouraged by my performance at the Hero World Challenge, and hope it was the start of something big. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect after being away from competitive golf for 10 months and came away excited about my health and my game.

Before I went to the Bahamas, I played practice rounds with Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson at home. They were all trying to get me to go out to practice and play, and that was nice. They wanted to help me come back and wanted to see me play well. It was a lot of fun going out to Medalist Golf Club and playing for a few bucks and having a good time.

There wasn’t a lot of time to fully prepare for the tournament; about a month to be honest. My surgeon was fantastic in guiding me through the rehab process. It was slow and tedious, but paid off. It was a big step for me to go out there and play four pain-free competitive rounds. I practiced after two of the days, so that was nice as well.

The juices were flowing right away. It was just a matter of finding the rhythm of the round. One of the things we (Joe LaCava) did prior to the tournament was go down to the Bahamas and play four straight days to try and simulate a tournament. I felt good about it, and when we went back down and got into the tournament, I found my rhythm on the second hole.

The biggest surprise for me was finding out that I had the lead after 27 holes. I knew I was close after I eagled the ninth. It was nice to have played well enough to do that after being gone so long.

I can’t express in words how great it felt to be back in the arena and how much I missed it. I want to thank Pawan Munjal Chairman, Managing Director & CEO of Hero Motocorp for his friendship and support of my foundation. It’s a pleasure to work with Hero.

From the Tiger Woods Foundation perspective, we couldn’t have had a better event. To have Hero be a part of it with me coming back to the game of golf, the high ratings, how the course looked and played, guys making birdies everywhere, made for a pretty entertaining event. Rickie played phenomenal on Sunday and was a deserving winner.

It was also fun to be able to share our story of how we’re trying to impact kids’ lives. I think we grew our following and a lot more people understand what we’re trying to do and how we’re going about it. A lot of the players who hadn’t been there — I think we had nine first-timers in the event — hadn’t heard what we’re trying to accomplish or what we have done in college access for underserved kids. Most of them came up to me and were just blown away by the impact we’ve had and how long I’ve been doing it. It’s been over 20 years and they were shocked.

I took a week off after Hero to train and build up my body because as a tournament week goes on, we all degrade a little bit. That’s just the nature of playing competitive golf.

Now, I feel I’ve taken it to another level. I’ve started practicing again and was out with Justin the other day and had a good time. I’m continuing to progress and trying to get strong enough to where I can handle a workload again. I would love to play a full schedule in 2018. What that entails, including back-to-back events, I don’t know. I just have to continue to work on my body and game and see where I pan out. I wish I knew where I was going to play and when I was going to play – it’s a lot easier to prep for that – but we really don’t know. This is all unchartered territory.

My swing is definitely shorter and I can’t turn as far. My back is fused and that’s as far as it’s going to go. But I was surprised at how explosive I was. And on top of that, how well I putted. I had been rolling it well at home, but it’s totally different when you have adrenalin in your system. I’m more than a full-club longer than when I shut it down. I wasn’t hitting it very far and was struggling to hit it solid. That’s a bad combo.

I appreciate competitive golf now more than I ever have. During that 10-month period I was away from the game, I had a hard time walking and often needed assistance getting out of bed. To go from that and be able to play golf – I hadn’t played without pain for a long time – it was nice to just go out there and chill out, have fun with the guys and needle them. The next step was competition.

I would really like to thank my sponsors for their amazing support this year. Bridgestone has been a fantastic company to work with and I’m excited about our future together. TaylorMade is working with me so I play the best clubs possible. I have really enjoyed working with Monster and they’re a great group to be a part of. We did a Monster Day down in Albany and their guests had an absolute blast. I did too. I have had a great relationship with Rolex for quite some time. I spent an evening with their guests during Hero which was a nice addition to a fun, full week. A great memory I have during my time with Rolex was a day at the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews with Arnold (Palmer) and Rod Laver. That was awfully special. Quick thanks to Full Swing Golf who continues to lead the simulator market and has been a big help to me in my preparation off the course. I’m also excited about the upcoming birthday for Nike Founder and my good friend, Phil Knight, who will turn 80 this February and I look forward to continuing my long-time association with them.

Hats off to PGA Tour pros Chris Stroud and Bobby Gates for hosting the Hurricane Harvey Relief Pro-Am at Bluejack National outside of Houston. I designed the course and donated a private lesson for the auction. A lot of people came together to raise money to help the victims of the devastating flooding. Thanks to all for their generosity and support of such a great cause.

The TGR Design team and I had a great time visiting our friends at Diamante Cabo San Lucas for the opening of the Ocean Club Residences. Thanks to all for making the day a great success. El Cardonal, our first golf course at Diamante, is doing great and continues to provide members and guests with a memorable and enjoyable golf experience. The Oasis Short Course, opened in December of 2016, creates a fun, casual experience for golfers of all abilities. It can be played multiple ways – as twelve par-3s or in a par-4, par-3 and par-5 configuration. Alternative short courses like this allow generations to play together and that’s something I fully support and encourage. We’re trying to draw more youth into the game and want to provide options to make the game fun and faster. We plan to start construction of our second 18-hole golf course at Diamante sometime soon.

One way or another, I will be at Riviera Country Club in February for the Genesis Open. It’s such an historic site and the course will always have special meaning for me. That’s where it all started back in 1992 when I played in my first PGA Tour event at age 16. My foundation now runs the tournament and it will be great to return to my old stomping grounds. I greatly appreciate Genesis’s support of the event and the TWF.

I was excited to hear the PGA Tour has changed its policy on television viewers calling in about rules infractions. For some time, I have felt the rule was unfair because not everyone is on TV for the same amount of time. Golf is different than most sports where you have numerous officials watching every play all the time. It’s up to us as players to police each other and ourselves. Players inadvertently make mistakes, but what happened to Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration and Dustin Johnson at the U.S. Open was ridiculous. Both handled it extremely well, but it’s just not fair. Our game has an enormous amount of integrity and we should rely on that.

I want to say a special thank you to Chris Como for all his past hard work. I’ll always be grateful for what he did for me and I know he’ll continue to be successful.

Congratulations to Kobe Bryant on his jersey retirement. I have been a die-hard fan of the Lakers since I was little kid and he’s probably the greatest Laker that ever lived. He played against Boston with a broken foot. That’s gnarly.

Heading into 2018, I am so thankful for the health of my kids, my mom, my family, my friends and me. I’ve had some tough times this year with pain. To come out the other end is phenomenal.

I continue to be surprised by the number of people who come up to me and say how ecstatic they are to see me playing golf again. I didn’t foresee that kind of response from players, members at Medalist, at my restaurant in Jupiter or just out and about. Frankly, it’s humbling. I think people are more appreciative about what I’ve been able to accomplish and I’m more appreciative of everyone, too.
To all of my fans, best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year. Again, I can’t thank you enough for your continued support and am looking forward to a great 2018.