Hero World Challenge was stage for reemergence of public Tiger WoodsAfter almost a year out of the spotlight, injured superstar was everywhere at Albany Golf Club
December 05, 2021
By Cameron Morfit , PGATOUR.COM
On the Range
Tiger Woods back on the range at 2021 Hero
NASSAU, Bahamas – Tiger Woods wore black slacks and a red, camo-style shirt at the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club as the sun beat down early Sunday afternoon.
RELATED: Insider: Woods' big paradigm shift
Only this time Woods wasn’t competing, leaving others to fight for the Hero trophy. Instead, as he had all week, he was practicing on the back of the range, watched only by a couple from Ohio and a family of four from Florida, their kids wondering aloud if they could get an autograph.
“He’s so tall!” one of the kids said.
Anyone feeling pangs for the largely absent Woods over the last year had to have felt encouraged by the Hero, where sightings of the tournament’s non-playing host were like a game of Where’s Waldo. Woods had been out of sight since being badly injured in a single-vehicle accident in Los Angeles in February, doing the hard work of convalescence and rehabilitation in private.
The Hero, though, provided a stage for his public reemergence.
There he was early in the week hitting 3-woods, a scene captured by a lone PGA TOUR videographer. Wait. Now Woods was on the back patio of the clubhouse jokingly telling Mike Thomas, Justin’s dad, to come watch him do driver testing. Then he was hitting drivers.
Woods sat for his first press conference since he nearly lost his leg in a single-vehicle accident in Los Angeles in February. He did a jokey interview with Golf TV. He made an extended visit to the NBC/Golf Channel booth to chat with Steve Sands and David Feherty.
Tiger Woods' full news conference before Hero
Hanging over everything was the question of when the 82-time PGA TOUR winner will tee it up again in competition, and how much he might resemble his old self. In his press conference, Woods said his right leg was so badly injured that “amputation was on the table.” His days playing a full schedule are over, he added.
Could he foresee playing in the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews next July? Woods said he wants to do so, having won the Open there twice, but couldn’t make any promises.
“To see some of my shots fall out of the sky a lot shorter than they used to is a little eye-opening, but at least I'm able to do it again,” he said, allowing that he has no timetable for when he might be capable of playing PGA TOUR-quality golf again, if only sporadically. It was a sobering assessment.
On the other hand, he teased with his words and deeds a much earlier appearance, at the father-son PNC Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Grande Lakes, Dec. 16-19.
“I can play hit-and-giggle golf,” he said.
That perfectly describes the PNC, which features major winners and their sons or fathers. It’s where Woods’ son, Charlie, wowed as the youngest-ever participant at age 11 last year. Woods could take a cart and, as he did last year, not bother to hit drives on the holes where Charlie has split the fairway.
Whether or not he plays later this month, he seems content. He thanked the doctors and nurses for helping him get his life back. He talked about his foundation as it rolls into its 25th year, highlighting some of the inspiring kids who have been through his STEM-heavy learning academy.
He praised Bryson DeChambeau and his doings in the world of long drive, which has surpassed what Woods and John Daly, the longest hitters of their era, could have accomplished in that world. He praised Collin Morikawa, who at 24 has become a Tiger-like force on TOUR.
As for when Woods impress like that again, the 15-time major winner will turn 46 later this month and has alluded to his 2019 Masters title as perhaps being the exclamation point on his career. Then again, who knows? He asked his family for their blessing on his next comeback, should his right leg continue to improve and allow for it, and they’ve given the green light.
“I've come off long layoffs and I've won or come close to winning before,” Woods said.
He’s not the same player, his leg may never be the same, but it’s Woods. Never say never.