Two weeks after posting a video of himself advancing to hitting a driver in his rehab, Tiger Woods is officially coming back. The 14-time major champion will make his long-awaited return to competitive golf at the upcoming Hero World Challenge, Nov. 30-Dec 3.
Posting the announcement to Twitter, Woods joked that he’d like to “thank the committee of 1” for receiving one of two sponsor exemptions into the 18-player tournament for which he has served as the longtime host.
Woods hasn’t competed since withdrawing after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic in February due to a lingering back injury. Less than two months later, he underwent a fourth career back surgery, which kept him sidelined for the remainder of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season.
Woods said in a statement, “I am excited to return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge. Albany is the perfect setting and it will be great to join this outstanding field.”
Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent said that the golfer called him Monday to make it official. Steinberg said “He said, ‘I’m ready to go; I’m ready to play,’. He wasn’t being too aggressive. He’s taking it slow and progressing each day and called and said he’s ready to commit. He’s excited about taking this next step.”
He spoke about the difference between this return and the one at the Hero World Challenge a year ago. Woods waited more than a year following his third back surgery to make a comeback. Steinberg said, “He honestly put no expectations on this surgery and what the future was going to hold. So it’s hard to compare it to anything. It was a completely different surgery than he had in the past. He honestly was putting no expectations on it, so for him to say he’s ready to play, I don’t think he can compare it to anything else.”
The tournament field of 18 is comprised of only players ranked among the top 50 in the world. Due to a 2015 rule change, Woods — as tournament host — can receive one of the sponsor exemptions regardless of his ranking. Daniel Berger, winner of the FedEx St. Jude Classic and member of the winning United States Presidents Cup team, joined Woods to fill out the remaining two spots in the field.
Woods made a similar return from injury at this same event last year, finishing in 15th place. But in a tie for the tournament lead in birdies with champion Hideki Matsuyama. A month later, Woods missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, which was followed by the withdrawal in Dubai a week later.
For 683 weeks, including 281 consecutive, Woods was the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, though his limited recent playing schedule currently finds him at No. 1180. He will turn 42 years old less than four weeks after the final round of the Hero World Challenge.