Tiger Woods, who hasn’t played competitive golf at all in 2016, has hinted that he is nearing a return to the professional arena.
Woods on Wednesday announced he hopes to play in the Safeway Open, Oct. 13-16 in Napa, California. The tournament, the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season opener, would mark Woods’ first competitive rounds in 14 months.
‘My rehabilitation is to the point where I’m comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do,’ Tiger said on his website. ‘Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go.’
He also hopes to play in the Turkish Airlines Open, held Nov. 3-6 in Antalya, Turkey, and the Hero World Challenge, which will be contested in the Bahamas Dec. 1-4. In addition, Woods will serve as an assistant captain for Davis Love III at the Ryder Cup to be played Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at Hazeltine National.
His appearance at the Safeway Open would be his second at that tournament. He played in 2011, tying for 30th.
‘It could be a fun fall,’ Woods said in his statement. ‘It was difficult missing tournaments that are important to me, but this time I was smart about my recovery and didn’t rush it.’
World No. 1 Jason Day, during his Wednesday news conference at this week’s BMW Championship, was glad to hear of Tiger’s return.
‘It’s great,’ Day said. ‘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.’
Woods’ last competitive appearance came at the 2015 Wyndham Championship where he held a share of the 36-hole lead and ended up tied for 10th. There were times, though, when he appeared to limp slightly, and three weeks later, Woods revealed he had to have a second microdiscectomy surgery.
The first time Woods had the procedure, which was to alleviate a pinched nerve in his neck, was in April 2014. He was sidelined until July, missing the season’s first two majors, before returning to play in the Quicken Loans National he hosts.
Woods had hoped for a similarly quick recovery and rehabilitation after his second surgery in September 2015, announcing that he expected to return to the TOUR early this year. But that timetable went out the window when he had to have a follow-up procedure in late October 2015, his third on his back in 20 months.
In early December, about three weeks prior to his 40th birthday, Woods met with the media at the Hero World Challenge, which benefits his charitable foundation. At that point, he had not started rehab and was taking things day-by-day.
‘Where is the light at the end of the tunnel,’ he wondered aloud. ‘I don’t know.’
In March, Woods wrote on his website that he had begun chipping and putting, as well as hitting 9-irons. He said he needed to get stronger and more flexible.
‘While there is no timetable on my return to competitive golf, I want to play this game at the highest level again. In order to do that, I have to get healthy,’ he wrote.
In recent months, there were glimpses of Woods at corporate outings and at Bluejack National, the course he is designing outside Houston. A popular video on social media showed Woods bear-hugging an 11-year-old who aced the first hole at the opening of the 10-hole short course there.
Still, Woods announced on April 1 that he would not be playing in the Masters, marking the second time in the last three years that he didn’t play at Augusta National. He did, however, attend the Champions Dinner on Wednesday night.
As it turned out, Woods did not play in any of the four majors for the first time in his professional career, which began 20 years ago this month.