Christmas 2021 has come and gone, and the 2022 golf year is fast approaching. The big question as we enter the new year, especially following his performance at the 2021 PNC Championship just a couple of weeks ago, is when and where will Tiger Woods tee it up first?
Tiger held his first press conference since his February accident at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas at the beginning of December and played down his return, tempering expectations.
“I don’t foresee this leg ever being what it used to be; hence I’ll never have the back what it used to be, and the clock’s ticking. I’m getting older; I’m not getting any younger. All that combined means that a full schedule and a full practice schedule and the recovery that it would take to do that; no, I don’t have any desire to do that. But to ramp up for a few events a year as I alluded to yesterday as Mr Hogan did, he did a pretty good job of it, and there’s no reason that I can’t do that and feel ready.”
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Tiger has been very clear that he will never again play a full schedule. At this stage of his career, after all the operations he has undergone, and at the age he is, and the hints he has given, it is likely that moving forward, his schedule will consist of under ten tournaments a year.
At the PNC Championship, which Tiger and his son Charlie almost won, we witnessed the 15-time major winner swinging the club at an incredible speed, especially for a man who almost lost his leg 10-months ago. He played so well over the two days that Matt Kuchar as good as declared Tiger the favourite for the Masters in April, a prediction that Tiger himself was quick to dismiss.
“No, no, no, no,” he said when asked if Kuchar could be right. “I totally disagree. I’m not at that level. I can’t compete against these guys right now, no. It’s going to take a lot of work to get to where I feel like I can compete with these guys and be at a high level.”
He then reiterated that he will not “play a full schedule ever again” and will be very selective with his events, and “even then, my body might not cooperate with that.”
The good news is, though, as he went on to confirm, “The competitive juices, they are never going to go away. This is my environment. This is what I’ve done my entire life. I’m just so thankful to be able to have this opportunity to do it again. Earlier this year was not a very good start to the year, and it didn’t look very good.”
So Tiger will return, and you can bet your life that he will play as many of the majors that his body allows once he starts playing again. The question for right now, though, is where will he start?
Let’s take a look at the three most likely starting points for Tiger and his broken body to return to competitive action.
Arnold Palmer Invitational (Mar. 3)
If Tiger wants to play at Augusta but doesn’t want the Masters to be his first event back, then this is the tournament he will likely return. It might be just a little too soon, though. Tiger will probably be more concerned with getting his body rested up and healthy to attack Augusta than he will be about rust in his game.
The Masters (Apr. 7)
The Masters is undoubtedly one of the best moments of the golfing year, every year. Could Tiger really tee it up on the most incredible golf course in the world in the greatest tournament in the world alongside the worlds best players only fifteen months after such a horrific accident? No-one doubts that he will want to, but walking Augusta for four days would be a concern if indeed he made the cut.
Open Championship (Jul. 14)
Tiger has won two of his fifteen majors at The Old Course at St Andrew’s, and making his long-awaited return to golf here at the Open Championship in July would be fitting. Tiger has many opportunities to play Augusta before his career is over, but his chances to play another Open Championship at the Old Course are closing. He realistically has the 2022 Open and the next one held here, sometime in the late 2020s, to get his hands on another Claret Jug at the oldest golf course in the world.
Whether this turns out to be the scene for Tiger’s return or whether he returns before the Open, he will be making a considerable effort to ensure he is teeing up in Scotland in July.
See also: Worldwide Golf Events for January 2022