ATLANTA – Even a member of Tiger Woods’ inner circle said that he was surprised that Woods will return to competition next month at the Hero World Challenge.
“I didn’t think it was going this well, this quickly,” Notah Begay III said Monday. “I know how much patience he has exercised in the rehabilitative process, deferring to the experts on how much and when and how often. But he’s gotten the green light. That’s what you have to be cautious with with Tiger – you give him the green light, he’s going to run with it.
“I’m happy for him. It’s a big part of what drives him. The fact that he still has the speed and the ability to compete with the world’s best players, it’s going to be exciting, provided he can stay healthy.”
Though Woods reported that most of the pain he’d experienced was gone after fusion surgery in April, Begay said there still was a sense that the fourth back procedure might mark the end of Woods’ competitive career.
“Most of us that are close to him, I think we were coming to terms with the fact that we might never see him in a competitive arena again,” Begay said. “It was hard to process that.”
Instead, Woods will make his return at a familiar place – the Hero World Challenge, where he also came back last December after a 16-month absence. He led the field in birdies but finished 15th out of 17 players.
Begay described the limited-field event in the Bahamas as a “place where [Woods] feels really comfortable. I don’t think there’s a better place for him to come back. He knows the course. He knows where to hit it and the putts. It’s a way for him to get some real honest feedback, an objective assessment of where his game is at heading into possibly a bigger schedule in 2018.”
Woods was only cleared for full golf activity earlier this month. Over the past few weeks, he has been more active on social media, posting videos of his swing and practice sessions, ratcheting up interest in his recovery.
Begay admitted that he’s “anxious” for the latest Woods comeback.
“None of us athletes ever prepare for the end. You just never know what it’s going to look like,” he said. “I hope he gets a chance to end it, whenever that is, on his terms with some quality golf.”