Finally, he’s back. Again.
Tiger Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to the subtalar joint in his ankle earlier this year – will return to competitive duty in this week’s Hero World Challenge in Bahamas, which could yet prove to be a stepping stone to a busier playing schedule next season.
Woods, who turns 48 next month, last played competitively in the Masters tournament at Augusta National in April where he was forced to withdraw due to injury and subsequently underwent surgery followed by a slow, painstaking rehabilitation.
The 15-time Major champion is the host of the limited 20-man field in the Bahamas this week and has committed to play the tournament, along with next month’s PNC Championship where he will partner his son, Charlie.
Woods’s return – away from a full PGA Tour event – has come with speculation that he could well ramp up his playing calendar next year to include all four Majors, along with The Players (which is celebrating its 50th anniversary) and a small number of regular tournaments too.
In his show on PGA Tour radio, host Taylor Zarzour claimed sources in Florida had told him Woods was planning to increase his schedule.
“He’s not limping as much as he was, he’s walking much better and he’s telling people he thinks he can play five or six tournaments in 2024.”
Recently, Woods told the AP agency that he was “completely pain free” in his right ankle.
“My ankle is fine. Where they fused my ankle, I have absolutely zero issue whatsoever. That pain is completely gone,” he said at the time.
Woods has been limited by injury for much of the past two years. He didn’t play at all in 2021 after suffering injuries in a car crash and only played four times in 2022 (including the JP McManus Pro Am) while he only played twice this year (finishing tied-45th in the Genesis Invitational, which he also hosted, and withdrawing from the Masters) before undergoing surgery on his ankle.
In his time away from competitive golf, Woods – who is scheduled to fulfil media duties in Bahamas on Tuesday in advance of the tournament – has slipped to 1,328th in the latest world rankings.
Woods’s public appearances of late have included caddying for his son Charlie in various junior tournaments in the United States, while he has also been planning (along with Rory McIlroy) for the launch of the TGL stadium golf franchise.
Originally, that venture was due to start in January 2024 but has been pushed back a year to 2025 after the inflatable dome of its custom-built Florida venue deflated, which was caused by a “failure of the temporary power system and backup systems used during construction” on the 250,000 square foot arena at Palm Beach State College.
Woods’s return to competition this week adds extra spice to the late-season tournament which is not an official event on the PGA Tour, with Norway’s Viktor Hovland aiming for a third successive win.
Will Zalatoris, who has been out of action since April after undergoing spinal surgery, is also returning to competition in an event that features 13 players who competed in the Ryder Cup in September: four members of Europe – Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Justin Rose and Sepp Straka; and nine players who represented the USA – Scottie Scheffler, Sam Burns, Wyndham Clark, Rickie Fowler, Brian Harman, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.