Sep
7
2016
Tiger Woods “hopes” to return to competitive golf in October
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Well, I’ll be damned — Tiger Woods made a massive announcement at a reasonable time of the day on a Wednesday, when relatively nothing too newsworthy (with exception to the Apple event) was happening! Woods tweeted and posted on his website that he’s attempting to make yet another comeback this fall. <<insert lots of happy and celebration emojis>>

He intends (or in his words, “hopes”) to play the Safeway Open, formerly known as the Frys.com Open, Oct. 13-16, at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California. It will be his first competitive event in over a year and it marks the first tournament on the PGA Tour’s 2016-17 calendar.

Woods, 40, also plans to play European Tour’s Turkish Airlines Open in early November (likely getting appearance fee), along with the Hero World Challenge in December, the annual limited field event (which is basically “Tiger and Friends”) that benefits his foundation. This was where Woods held a bleak press conference last year on the state of his health and his future in competitive golf — he didn’t paint a pretty picture, and in fact, he sounded like he was ready to throw in the towel.

Woods, arguably the greatest golfer to have ever graced the planet (IMHO he is), last played in a tournament at the Wyndham Championship in August 2015, where he finished T10, despite being in contention until falling back in the final round. He had a second back surgery in mid-September, which was followed up by another procedure in late October. (Pure speculation, but it’s not crazy to say that he had the follow-up because the original surgery didn’t go so well.) In the course over 18 months, Woods went under the knife for his back problems three times.

The former world no. 1 with 14 major championships under his belt has fallen all the way down to 711th in the world rankings since his forced time away from tournament golf (insert 7-11 joke…). If he tees it up on October 13th, it will the first time he plays competitively in around 14 months.

Here is Woods’ full statement posted on his website:

“My rehabilitation is to the point where I’m comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do,” Tiger said. “Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go.

“I’m looking forward to going to California for my foundation event and Safeway. I’m also excited to return to Turkey and Albany. It could be a fun fall.

“It was difficult missing tournaments that are important to me, but this time I was smart about my recovery and didn’t rush it. It was great spending time with my children Sam and Charlie, and also working on a lot of projects including golf-course design, the upcoming 20th anniversary of my foundation and my book about the 1997 Masters. But I missed competing. I want to thank all the fans for their kindness and concern. I’ve been a pro about 20 years, and their support has never waned.”

Even if he doesn’t play this fall, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III named Woods as one of his vice-captains, so we’ll for sure see a lot of him at Hazeltine in a couple of weeks — even if it is just driving around in a golf cart wearing a headset and slapping American players on the butt after giving them some words of encouragement.

His peers are glad to hear he’s feeling better and looking forward to his return.

“I think it’s great,” Phil Mickelson told ESPN on Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to spending time with him at the Ryder Cup. I think that’ll be great motivation for him.

“I’m hoping we can get paired together. That would be really fun. I would love it. It’s great to have him back and hopefully he’s physically able to practice the way he needs.”

Woods’ progress is still a bit of a mystery. We can assume he’s been practicing and playing at home and at Medalist, but the state of his golf game is unknown.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him play again, seeing what the state of his game is,” said No. 1-ranked Jason Day, who Woods has been living vicariously through via exchanging frequent text messages.

“This time I think he’s done it the right way by waiting and not coming back too soon. There’s been a couple of times where I feel like he may have come back too soon and kind of injured himself a little bit more, and that’s what’s kept him out of the game so long. But there’s probably a lot of anticipation to see how the state of his game is and I’m definitely looking forward to watching those tournaments and seeing how his body holds up and how the mental side and obviously the golf side of things hold up as well.”

Rory McIlroy, who is coming off a win at the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday, had a feeling Woods would be returning at the start of the new season after chatting with Mark Steinberg at the Open Championship (Steiny knew more than he would say on the record — color me eight-shades-of-not shocked).

“I’m sort of glad I’m not there that week,” said McIlroy via USA Today. “It’s going to be a bit of a circus,” McIlroy said. “I missed the buzz that he creates at tournaments. He brings an aura and an atmosphere to a tournament that no one else in golf can bring. …

“He’s really taken the conservative approach and I think that’s the right approach and it would be great to see him give it one last shot for the next sort of half a decade or whatever it’s going to be and go from there. I think everyone’s excited to have him back and hopefully he can get back on the course and stay healthy for a prolonged period of time and give it one last go.”

I hear ya, Rory.

We wish Tiger the best en route to his return back to competitive golf. I’m sure media credential applications for the Safeway Open exploded out of control this afternoon.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think we’ll see Tiger win another major. Maybe another Tour event. But it depends on how he actually is doing physically and mentally — and no one knows. I don’t think anyone wants to see a redux of his last comeback in 2015. Please, Tiger, don’t play if you’re going to shoot in the 80s. We want to see you win again, but that might be delusional at this point. /ducking … I mean, THREE back surgeries/procedures! Anyone who has had ONE back surgery can tell you that you’ll never feel the same again, so THREE?! Damn.

Hope to see TW on the first tee on October 13th.