Punch Shot: Will Tiger play again on Tour?


Tiger Woods withdrew from the Safeway Open on Monday, continuing a 14-month streak without playing a PGA Tour event. Is this another road bump or the end of the road for Woods? Our writers weigh in on if we will see Woods compete in a Tour event again:


Tiger Woods will play another PGA Tour event. Technically, he seems likely to play another Tour-sanctioned tournament this year, his unofficial Hero World Challenge. In his statement released on his website, Woods said as much, “I will continue to work hard and plan to play at my foundation’s event [the Hero in December].”

As surprising as Woods’ announcement on Monday that he wouldn’t play this week’s Safeway Open, after 14 months away from the Tour, it seems more likely that Tiger has more concern with the state of his game than his surgically repaired back. He was, after all, still making his way through a dramatic swing change when he went on the DL in late 2015. To expect his game to be ready for primetime after multiple back procedures was probably not realistic.

If waiting until 2017 to rejoin the competitive fray is what he thinks is best, it’s hard to second-guess either his future or his choices. Besides, for Woods, it’s always been about playing his best golf in April and at the season’s four major championships that mattered. Woods will play again on Tour, it just may take some time and some patience.


Tiger Woods won’t quit like this. That’s what walking away now would feel like, more like waving a white flag than retiring.

Whatever Woods is feeling “vulnerable” about, he doesn’t appear ready to give up fighting it.

“I will continue to strive to play tournament golf,” he wrote on his web site on Monday. “I’m close, and I won’t stop until I get there.”

Woods has done so much for golf and people who make their living in the business. Withdrawing from the Safeway Open because he’s feeling “vulnerable” let down a lot of people after he made his intentions to play public so early, and then committed on Friday, but he is owed some grace from the golf world. We’ll take him at his word on this, that he’s close and won’t stop.


The easy answer is yes, because (in theory) he has another decade to play, but with each delayed return it becomes harder to believe.

And so it seems that by aiming for the Hero World Challenge in December, Woods has drawn a line in the sand. It’s an event he hosts. It’s an 18-man exhibition. And it offers the softest possible landing spot, with virtually no expectations for his performance.

If he doesn’t launch his comeback there, then where? The longer he waits, the harder it gets.

This latest fiasco, and the words he used to describe his game – “vulnerable” and “not up to my standards” – paint a bleak picture about his future. His foremost problem, it appears, is not his body but rather his mind, and a battered psyche is not as easy to rehabilitate.

If Woods doesn’t return in the Bahamas, if after two more months he’s not yet ready to put his diminishing skills on display, if his game is still vulnerable and not up to his standards, then it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever compete again. 


I believe Tiger will be back on Tour, but I’m far less confident in that notion than I was 24 hours ago. The issue with this latest setback is that the malady seems to lie between the ears. Woods reiterated that he feels healthy and strong, but a rebuilt body apparently isn’t enough to resurrect his game.

Anyone that has struggled with consistency at their local muni, let alone in front of every camera against the best in the world, knows how fragile confidence can be on the course. That fragility now seems to be working against Woods, and unlike a knee injury or back surgery there is no set timeline for recovery on the mental side of the game.

It is jarring and sad to hear arguably the greatest competitor golf has ever seen describe his game as “vulnerable,” and it illustrates just how far he has fallen. Many perceived Woods’ rock bottom to be his funereal press conference last year in the Bahamas, but perhaps that wasn’t entirely accurate. Still, the chances are that he will return – hopefully in December, a soft landing spot that could propel him to a more structured schedule in the spring with an eye toward the Masters. It remains the most likely option for a one-time great who is still just 40 years old.

But Monday’s revelation reinforced the fact that Woods doesn’t need another comeback. He has already achieved more than most could in multiple lifetimes, and if his confidence can’t rise above “vulnerable,” we may have already seen him for the last time.