After 844 days, Tiger Woods is back. On Saturday, Feb. 18, Tiger Woods returned to the world of golf to compete in the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational at Riviera Golf Course in Southern California. Wood’s entry marks his first PGA Tour event since 2020, his first tournament since last July, and only his third tournament since his horrific car accident in Feb. 2021, during which Woods suffered fractures in both the tibia and fibula of his right leg that nearly led to its amputation.
Woods’s return is also layered with sentimental significance. In 1992, Woods competed in his first-ever professional tournament at Riviera Country Club at just sixteen years old. In a sense, it is fitting that Woods’s return comes at the same place where his journey began.
The shock entry into the tournament came last Friday, as Woods tweeted that he would be playing in the Genesis Invitational. For many in the golfing community, Woods’s inclusion came as a welcome surprise. During his last official competition, he missed the cut at the British Open in a performance that revealed the shortcomings in his recovery from the car accident. Compounding his woes, in Dec. 2022 Woods suffered another setback when he was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis.
However, after intense rehabilitation with frequent litmus tests on his health, including “walking [long] distances on the beach”, Woods is ready to rejoin professional golf. While walking 72 holes over the course of four days is a grueling challenge for any individual, the task seemed especially daunting for the still-recovering Woods. He told reporters that he had not even attempted this task in over a year. The last time he completed 72 holes was in April of 2022. He told Golf Digest Magazine that, despite the immense obstacles, Woods had a clear philosophy.
“I would not have put myself out here if I didn’t think I could beat these guys and win the event. That’s my mentality,” he told Golf Digest.
Although Tiger did not end up winning the tournament (that honor would go to Spanish golfer Jon Rahm), Woods’s accomplishments this week are no less pronounced. From shooting a superb 67 on Saturday, a near hole-in-one on Friday, to a birdie on his very first hole in the tournament, Woods showed that he has not lost the magnificence that led him to 82 PGA Tour victories along with fifteen major tournament victories. More remarkably, Woods seemed to improve in skill as the week went on, an incredible feat given the question marks on his health and stamina.
This praise is not to say that Woods was flawless in his return to the sport. He made uncharacteristic errors, and even self-described his performance as “rusty” with “silly mistakes here and there.”
What is next for the golfing giant is unclear. Although all golf fans would love to see Woods return as a PGA Tour regular, this may not be possible for the 47-year-old. In a post-tournament interview, Tiger admitted, “I am not going to play any more than probably the majors and maybe a couple more. That’s it.”
However, in a message that will surely excite every fan of the sport, Tiger stated, “Hopefully this year I can get all four [majors] and maybe sprinkle in a few here and there.”
While we may not see golf’s Goliath for a little while, it seems all but guaranteed that he will be teeing off at Augusta National this April for the season’s first major tournament. Until then, here’s to hoping for a few more iconic moments to be added to Tiger Woods’s lore.