Never have 138 characters felt more like an avalanche.
Tiger Woods is a creature of habit, and while his typical tournament schedule reflects that fact, rarely does he offer his plans far in advance. He committed to the Masters six days before the opening round, and only publicly announced his plans to tee it up at TPC Sawgrass 13 days before the start of The Players Championship.
Then came Wednesday’s tweet, and in the span of a few keystrokes Woods booked his summer tour. Much like his jovial mood (and earbud use!) at Augusta National signaled the turning over of a new leaf, a five-event flurry of commitments from Woods is almost unheard of.
There will be familiar venues – namely Muirfield Village, where he has won five times, followed by the Old Course at St. Andrews, which Woods calls his “favorite course in golf.” But the itinerary also includes some less familiar stops. Woods has never played Chambers Bay (U.S. Open), his lone trip to the Greenbrier resulted in a missed cut in 2012 and his last competitive shot at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club (Quicken Loans) came at the 2005 Presidents Cup.
If nothing else, Woods’ announcement signals that the issues with which he struggled earlier this year – both in terms of health and short game – are things of the past. After subsisting on a week-to-week basis for nearly three months, he now feels physically and mentally confident enough to plan three months in advance. That is a good sign, both for Woods and the game in general.
This also means that a pivotal season for Woods, one that failed to get off the ground in Phoenix and San Diego, can begin – again – in earnest. Starting next week in Ponte Vedra Beach, the 39-year-old will play six events across a 13-week span – a significant stretch considering he has completed just 19 competitive rounds since July.
It’s also a schedule that could become even busier in August. Woods is No. 116 in the world, but should he crack the top 50 in the rankings by Aug. 3 he would earn a spot at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, an event he has won eight times and the site of the most recent of his 79 PGA Tour wins.
If Woods tees it up at Firestone and the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, it would mean three tournaments in three weeks – a trifecta of productivity he last pulled off in March 2013.
Make no mistake, the landscape currently facing Woods is far different from the one he saw in ‘13, when he won five times and took Player of the Year honors. Rory McIlroy has asserted himself as a clear No. 1, with Jordan Spieth hot on his heels. Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed have combined to win nine times since Woods’ last victory.
He faces an uphill climb to re-join the game’s elite, but Woods’ T-17 finish at the Masters shows that while he’s no longer No. 1, he’s not playing like No. 116, either. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and the more golf he plays, the more accurate his ranking will become.
For more than 15 months, Woods’ game has been shrouded with questions. He has shown flashes of his old form, only to be derailed by injury or betrayed by his wedges. While some of those questions will still linger when he tees it up next week and beyond, at least now we know where to expect the roars.
Plan your schedule accordingly.