The First Look: Tiger Woods' return to action leads storylines at Hero World Challenge
6 Min Read
NASSAU, BAHAMAS - DECEMBER 05: Tiger Woods of the United States poses with Viktor Hovland of Norway and the trophy after winning the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course on December 05, 2021 in Nassau, . (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Written by Adam Stanley @adam_stanley
Tiger Woods is back in action.
File that under, “Things you love to see.”
The 82-time PGA TOUR winner last teed it up at the Masters seven months ago, making the cut but withdrawing during the third round – citing plantar fasciitis that had flared up on a rainy Saturday.
Since then, Woods has been busy away from the course. TGL, the virtual golf league he co-founded, was inching closer to launch before a construction accident caused enough damage to push its start to 2025. The PGA TOUR played on a Woods-designed golf course for the first time, as this month’s World Wide Technology Championship was contested at El Cardonal at Diamante in Mexico. Woods caddied for his son Charlie at the Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship.
But now Woods is ready to play golf again.
He will once again play a dual role of host and participant at the Hero World Challenge, contested in Albany, Bahamas, and it was announced last week that Team Woods will play the PNC Championship for the fourth straight year. These are two very different situations for Woods, as the 72-hole Hero World Challenge requires walking, while the 36-hole PNC allows the use of a cart.
Woods did not play last year’s Hero World Challenge – withdrawing before the competition due to the same plantar fasciitis condition. He made two TOUR starts earlier this year, finishing T45 at The Genesis Invitational before the Masters.
In an interview with the Associated Press two weeks ago, Woods said he was pain-free when it comes to his right ankle which was fused in April.
“It’s the other areas that have been compensated for,” Woods said.
Woods compared his current situation to when he had fusion surgery on his lower back and said the L5 and S1 vertebrae were fine.
“But all the surrounding areas are where I had all my problems and I still do,” Woods said. “So, you fix one, others have to become more hypermobile to get around it, and it can lead to some issues.”
Regardless of body issues, though, Woods has always been a fighter. And the fact that he is working on a return to action, starting in Albany, is going to make an already exciting week that much more fun.
FIELD NOTES: Tiger Woods will aim to play four rounds for the first time since he withdrew at the Masters in April, electing not to continue with his third round when it resumed Sunday morning … Viktor Hovland is going for a three-peat. The reigning FedExCup champion has not teed it up on the PGA TOUR since his FedExCup triumph at East Lake Golf Club, but he played twice on the DP World Tour this fall, finishing T5 at the BMW PGA Championship and T2 at the DP World Tour Championship … Will Zalatoris is set to return to action. Zalatoris herniated a disk in his back at the 2022 BMW Championship and took the remainder of the year off. He played seven times in 2023 before withdrawing before his first-round tee time at the Masters. He announced April 10 he would miss the remainder of the season after having back surgery … World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler will tee it up for the first time since the Ryder Cup. Scheffler has finished second at the Hero World Challenge the last two years … Max Homa returns to action with a run of five straight top 10s on the PGA TOUR under his belt. In fact, Homa hasn’t finished outside the top 25 since missing the cut at the Travelers Championship … Matt Fitzpatrick will return to action after finishing tied for 27th at the DP World Tour Championship. Fitzpatrick won this year’s RBC Heritage and captured the DP World Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October … Open Championship winner Brian Harman teed it up at The RSM Classic to close out the 2022-23 PGA TOUR season – his first action since the Ryder Cup – and finished 44th. This is his Hero World Challenge debut ... U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, set for his Hero World Challenge debut, is teeing it up for the first time since the Ryder Cup. Prior to that, he finished third at the TOUR Championship … 2014 Hero World Challenge winner Jordan Spieth has recorded three straight top-six finishes at Albany. Spieth went winless on TOUR this season but had seven top 10s … 2022 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Cameron Young, who finished third at last year’s Hero, returns to Albany … Collin Morikawa will tee it up for the first time since his impressive final-round 63 to win the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. Morikawa was supposed to play in the Netflix Cup earlier this month but withdrew due to a back injury … Morikawa’s replacement at the Netflix Cup, Tony Finau, returns to Albany where he has never finished outside the top 10, with back-to-back seventh-place results at the event. Finau won twice on TOUR in 2022-23 and will tee it up for the first time since the TOUR Championship … Keegan Bradley heads back to Albany for the first time since 2018. Bradley had two wins on TOUR this season and finished tied for 19th in his title defense at the ZOZO Championship in October … Like Bradley, Jason Day also returns to Albany for the first time since 2018. Day won the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, his first TOUR title since that same year … Ryder Cuppers Sam Burns, Sepp Straka, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas are all in the field in the Bahamas. Fowler won the event in 2017, punctuated by a course-record 61 in the final round … Tournament exemptions were granted to Justin Rose and Lucas Glover to round out the 20-player field.
FEDEXCUP: No FedExCup points are awarded at the Hero World Challenge; however, four past FedExCup winners are in the field including defending champion Viktor Hovland – the defending FedExCup winner.
Official World Golf Ranking points will be awarded.
COURSE: Albany Golf Course, par 72, 7,449 yards. The links-style Ernie Els design will host the Hero World Challenge for the eighth time. Players must contend with windswept dunes measuring up to 30 feet high and challenging water features. The course boasts five par 5s and five par 3s.
72-HOLE RECORD: 262, Spieth (2014); Albany record: 263, Bubba Watson (2015)
18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Fowler (fourth round, 2017)
LAST TIME: Hovland successfully defended his title after topping Scheffler by two shots, becoming the first player since Woods (2006, 2007) to go back-to-back at the Hero. Scheffler also finished runner-up to Hovland the year prior. In 2021, Hovland rallied from six shots back of Scheffler to edge the Texan. Last year, however, Hovland held a three-shot advantage over Scheffler going into the final round. Hovland went wire-to-wire to beat a field that included 15 of the top 20 in the world. PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Young finished third, while Xander Schauffele finished fourth and Thomas finished fifth.
HOW TO WATCH:
Television: Thursday-Friday, 1:30-4:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel); Saturday, noon-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2:30-5 p.m. (NBC); Sunday, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 1:30-4:30 p.m. (NBC)