Tiger Woods, seemingly starring in a remake of Groundhog Day, will try to get it right this time when he makes yet another long-awaited return to the PGA Tour at the Nov. 30-Dec. 3 Hero World Challenge.
The host of the limited-field, no-cut event in the Bahamas signaled on Oct. 30 his intentions to stage the latest in a string of comebacks from injury when he committed to play in his first competitive round since February.
“I am excited to return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge,” Woods, a five-time winner of the event, said in a statement. “Albany is the perfect setting and it will be great to join this outstanding field. I want to thank Pawan Munjal and Hero MotoCorp for their continued support of this tournament and my foundation. I would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support during my injury.”
Tiger watchers will recall that Woods made his last shot that mattered in a dismal, 5-over 77 first round of the Dubai Desert Classic and withdrew before the start of day two. And then in April he underwent his fourth back surgery (this one a “fusion,” which was different from previous microdiscectomies) and has been on the sidelines since, though a series of “making progress” videos in which he has advanced from chipping and putting to actual long swings, as well as eyewitness accounts and a former coach’s guarantee of his return at the Hero, presaged Woods’ next attempt to get back inside the ropes.
Dr. gave me the ok to start pitching pic.twitter.com/tboq1L3Xdn— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) August 31, 2017
It has been an eventful nine or so months for the formerly top-ranked player who has plummeted to 1,180th in the world. There was that DUI arrest on Memorial Day (and subsequent guilty plea for reckless driving at the end of October), after which we heard little from Tiger until his stint as vice captain at the Presidents Cup, where he stunned the golf world by conceding there was “definitely" a possibility he may never play again.
After that, Woods soon reclaimed his spot as the game’s chief newsmaker as he showed us, via social media, the progress he's made in his swing, including a “return of the stinger.”
Then he showed up at the second game of the World Series in Los Angeles to cheer for the home team.
And now the announcement about his entry into the World Challenge, which apparently left a sponsor’s exemption space open for him when organizers announced a few weeks ago just 16 of the 18 players who would be there. That two spots were left open, when the full field is usually announced, obviously ignited more speculation that Tiger was going to try for his Bahamas event. Daniel Berger will round out the final spot in the field.
Perhaps the only observer who saw this coming was Tiger’s ex-coach Hank Haney, who pretty much guaranteed on a recent SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio broadcast that his former student would indeed be on the tee sheet in the Bahamas.
“They're going to toy with everybody, because it's just what they do. But he’s playing at the Hero World Challenge. He’s not going to wait until February to play again,” Haney said. “I know you’re going to see him, you’re going to see him at the Hero.”
Woods has professed to take it slowly in his recovery from back fusion surgery in April, but with each new swing video and eyewitness account of how well Tiger was playing on his home course, it was clear he was ready to begin the next phase of his playing career.
Of course, we have been down this golf path before, what with Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte’s report about that 66 Tiger shot at Medalist in April 2015, Woods’ “progressing nicely” video back in February 2016, and that near-DFL finish at last year’s Hero.
So with that dose of reality as a backdrop, here’s hoping Tiger really can make a go of it this time without any health- or performance-related setbacks.