CARMEL, Ind. – Perhaps this won’t be a lost year for Tiger Woods, after all.
The Tour’s season opener will be the first of three events that Woods will play before the end of the year: He also intends to tee it up in the Turkish Airlines Open (Nov. 3-6) and Hero World Challenge (Dec. 1-4).
“My rehabilitation is to the point where I’m comfortbale making plans, but I still have work to do,” he said in a statement released on his website. “Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go.”
Woods hasn’t played a competitive round since Aug. 23, 2015, when he posted a season-best tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship. A month later, he underwent a second microdiscectomy, then had another follow-up procedure on his back a few weeks later. He has dropped to No. 711 in the world ranking.
Updates on his progress this year have been scarce, as fans were left to read the tea leaves after Woods made various appearances in his home simulator, on the range at a junior clinic, at his course opening and at media day for the Quicken Loans National. The most recent update came on July 19, when his agent, Mark Steinberg, told GolfChannel.com that Woods would not play the rest of the season and that he was “continuing to make progress … and will continue to rehab and work hard to then assess when he starts play for the ’16/’17 season.”
Turns out he could be back for the first event of the new season.
"It could be a fun fall," he said. "It was difficult missing tournaments that are important to me, but this time I was smart about my recovery and didn’t rush it."
Woods has played the Safeway (formerly known as the Frys.com Open) only once, in 2011. He had committed to play the event last year as part of an agreement with PGA Tour commissioner that allowed Woods and seven other players to participate in an exhibition in Turkey in 2012. He later withdrew because of injury.
The Turkish Airlines Open is the first leg of the European Tour’s Final Series, its season-ending stretch of tournaments that culminates with the DP World Tour Championship. In 2013, Woods signed a lucrative, three-year deal with event organizers that was supposed to see him play in the tournament through 2016, but back injuries prevented him from competing each of the past two years.
“It’s great,” world No. 1 Jason Day said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him play again, seeing what the state of his game is. Obviously, 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.”