Tiger Woods makes his eagerly awaited comeback this week at the Hero World Challenge, and he had a lot to say in his Tuesday morning press conference at Albany.
Woods couldn’t hide his frustration at players not being aware of the merger, spoke about his new ‘pain-free’ walking and said he “absolutely” still thinks he can win.
Here are some of the notable topics discussed by the 15-time Major champion…
GAME FEELS RUSTY
Woods revealed he has played plenty of holes throughout the latter stages of his rehabilitation but hasn’t had to put pencil to paper in a long time during competition. He told media he’s “just as curious as all of you are to see what happens” when he tees it up.
He said: "My game feels rusty, I haven't played in a while. I'm excited to compete and play, and I'm just as curious as all of you are to see what happens because I haven't done it in a while."
ONE EVENT PER MONTH IN 2024
Tiger was recently rumoured to have been eyeing up 5-6 events next year but he hopes to play around double that. One event per month was what he is hoping for now that walking is pain free.
Woods said: "I think that best scenario would be maybe a tournament a month. I think that's realistic. Again, right now, the biggest events are one per month. It sets itself up for that. Now, I need to get myself ready for all that. I think this week is a big step in that direction."
Woods went on to specifically mention the Genesis Invitational at Riviera as a potential start, which he hosts and also played in this year. Riviera is in his home city of Los Angeles and was the venue for his first ever PGA Tour start in 1992. He has never won the tournament, though.
After his subtalar fusion in April, Woods’ ankle is now pain free after saying his surgery was a “success.” That will explain his optimism for believing he can play one event per month next year, but Woods did stress that “other parts are taking the brunt of the load.”
He continued by saying his knee and back hurts and that forces have to go somewhere, and they go “up the chain”.
Woods said: "I'm not concerned at all about walking [it]. As I said, I don't have any of the ankle pain that I had with the hardware that's been placed in my foot, that's all gone.
"The other parts of my body, my knee hurts, my back. The forces go somewhere else. Just like when I had my back fused, the forces have to go somewhere. So it's up the chain."
THAT CAN'T HAPPEN AGAIN
Woods suggested that he was not specifically upset by the June 6th agreement but more about the fact that players were not consulted before a decision was made for them by PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan.
Throughout the 30-minute press conference, Woods consistently uttered the phrase "can't happen again" when discussing how the players were left in the dark prior to that deal being revealed.
Woods said: "[Jay] understands what happened prior to that [announcement] can't happen again and won't happen again, not with the players that are involved and not with the player directors having the role that we have."
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RYDER CUP 2025
Woods has been touted for the next Ryder Cup captaincy at Bethpage in 2025 but he firmly shut that down when asked, with the merger far too important right now. Woods said he’s “not thinking about it” and that “there’s too much at stake with our Tour” at the moment.
He said: "Right now, there's too much at stake with our Tour to think about a Ryder Cup. We have to get this done and we have to be focused on this right now. The Ryder Cup can take a beat - the players and everyone involved understands that this is an issue we need to focus on."
WHO'S YOUR CADDIE?
One of the key talking points ahead of Woods' professional comeback was who will carry the great man's bag once he tees it up again.
Woods answered the query in the immediate term but stated he is yet to make a long-term call.
He said: “I’ve got Rob [McNamara] this week, he’s seen me hit a few shots. As far as next year, I don’t know yet. I don’t think Charlie’s going to be able to caddie. Can’t play hooky that often. I don’t know. Honestly, I really don’t know.
"I was just looking forward to this week and seeing how things turned out. I’m curious to see what 72 holes looks like on the body and my game and then try and set a schedule going forward into next year.”
'ABSOLUTELY' THINKS HE CAN WIN
Tiger was asked what drove him to make a return to pro golf late in his 40s, with the returned answer a simple one - he loves competing and he loves to win.
Just before confirming he "absolutely" believes he can still win, Woods explained what compelled him to go through all of that rehab once more.
He said: "I love competing, I love playing. I miss being out here with the guys, I miss the camaraderie and the fraternity-like atmosphere out here and the overall banter. But what drives me is I love to compete.
"There will come a point in time, I haven't come around to it fully yet, that I won't be able to win again. When that day comes, I'll walk -- well, now I can walk. I won't say run away, but I'm going to walk away."
MCILROY STEPPING DOWN FROM PGA TOUR POLICY BOARD
The 15-time Major champion said he “totally understands” Rory McIlroy’s withdrawal from the PGA Tour board, pointing out that the Northern Irishman had to juggle board meetings and being golf’s spokesperson all the while competing near the thick of it week-in, week-out on the PGA Tour.
Woods explained: "I totally understand why Rory made that decision. We put a lot of effort and time into the Delaware meeting and getting everyone aligned for that.
"Going from there and the next couple years, just the involvement or the conflict within golf and then his participation at the highest level. He was in contention almost every tournament he played in and he was the spokesman at the same time. So that was very difficult on him personally and I totally understand it."
A PATHWAY BACK TO THE PGA TOUR FROM LIV
A significant part of the conversation with Woods centred around his involvement in the PGA Tour's deal with Saudi Arabia's PIF and how the game of golf could potentially heal moving forward.
Part of that healing process may depend on whether and if players who signed up to the LIV Golf League may be allowed to return to the PGA Tour, should they want.
Woods was keen not to give too much away, though, and insisted there are still "many different scenarios" on the table.
He said: "As far as a pathway, we're still working on that. That's part of the deal we're working through is trying to find a path, whatever that looks like. There's so many different scenarios."
CURRENT STATE OF THE MERGER
Woods confirmed that no matter what may be reported or suggested externally, everyone involved in trying to thrash out a deal is pulling in the same direction.
He said: "One thing, all the parties are talking and we're aggressively working on trying to get a deal done. We're all trying to make sure that the process is better, too. So the implementation of governance is one of the main topics as long as -- getting the deal done, but making sure it's done the right way."
Woods later went on to field a question about his confidence levels in regard to the deal being past a certain point by the end of the year.
He said: "We have multiple options, but still, we would like to have a deal done December 31st. That's what the agreement said in the summer and all parties understand that. But there are other options out there."
HERO WORLD CHALLENGE QUICK LINKS:
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Hello everyone, Jonny here, ready to bring you all of the key updates from Tiger Woods' pre-Hero World Challenge press conference. After a seven-month absence, excitement is building as Woods makes his latest professional return just before Christmas.
We are due to hear from the 15-time Major winner at 10am ET/3pm GMT from Albany Golf Club in The Bahamas where he will discuss a variety of subjects - including how his body is holding up and whether he fancies his chances of a win this week.
Thank you for joining me!
THE 8 BIG QUESTIONS AHEAD OF TIGER'S RETURN
Unfortunately, Tiger is no stranger to a long-term injury which has prevented him from lighting up the golfing stage for months at a time in the past.
But although he is apparently fit and firing these days, there are still a number of lingering doubts from some fans that can only be answered through action and not words.
WHAT'S IN STORE FOR WOODS IN 2024?
In an ideal world, Woods feels back to his old self and takes part in 15 tournaments next year. In reality, and for a couple of very good reasons, that is quite unlikely to happen.
But how many events could one of golf's greatest ever players manage in 2024? Well, according to the man himself, up to half a dozen have been pencilled in already.
Add in even just a few extra and the game (plus most of its fans) would be extremely grateful.
TIGER PROWLING BACK UP THE RANKINGS
No matter what happens this week against this stacked field of 20 players, Woods is all-but guaranteed to return into the world's top-1,000 golfers. He is currently at his lowest-ever ranking but could even rocket up well inside the top-200 with a win.
AWAITING TIGER WOODS
We are moments away from Woods' scheduled arrival time...
TIGER IS HERE
Here he is. Right on time. A picture of professionalism.
HERO EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN MAKES ANNOUNCEMENTS
Hero MotoCorp Executive Chairman Dr. Pawan Munjal starts by welcoming Tiger Woods to his third competitive comeback to professional golf.
He also announces the prize purse for the HWC 2023 is being increased to $4.5 million. In 2024, it will increase to $5 million.
Woods says that increased prize pool elevates the event and attracts the best players in the world after a long year. TW says he is excited to continue that relationship through 2025.
WOODS ON HIS GAME AND HOW HE FEELS
"My game is rusty!" Tiger jokes. TW says he doesn't have any of that pain in his ankle anymore, but other places have taken over with a few small issues. Says he is just as excited as everyone else to see what his game looks like again.
TW says his commitment to play in this event was solidified after caddying for Charlie recently. TW was still lifting in the gym and recovering well after each day, so after a conversation with the one-man committee, he was all good to go.
TW ON REACTION TO FRAMEWORK ANNOUNCEMENT
TW was surprised, like a lot of people. Surprised the process was what it was, frustrated with what happened. And he took steps to ensure player involvement would increase and not be left out "like we were" previously.
December 31 is coming up quickly, and we would like to make sure some things are implemented so that everyone involved in the PGA Tour gets the best deal possible.
REPLACED OR RE-FUSED
TW says his two options after the Masters in April were to get his ankle either replaced or re-fused. He chose the latter and admitted the hardest part of this whole process was the six months after where he couldn't do a lot.
DOES PGA TOUR/PIF DEAL NEED TO HAPPEN?
We have multiple options, but we'd like to get a deal done. All parties understand that, but we still need to get a deal done before December 31.
As long as the players have an input in future decisions and the processes happen more quickly, that's what we're looking for.
WHY THIS TOURNAMENT AS A COMEBACK PLATFORM?
The timing of this event has always been important. Plus the size of the field. It helps manage my expectations for the following year. Plus, my foundation benefits from this. So there are so many positives to take from me playing in this tournament.
WHAT WILL PRO GOLF LOOK LIKE IN THE NEXT YEAR OR TWO?
I don't think the answer is murky. There are a lot of moving parts and we have different options as to where we can take golf. We're trying to figure that out and see what the best solution is moving forward.
WHO WILL CADDIE FOR TW THIS WEEK?
Woods confirms Rob McNamara will caddie this week, but he hasn't made a decision on who will do it throughout 2024. Says Charlie can't "play hooky" that much, so he's out of the question, but Woods is yet to make a call.
WOODS ON TGL DELAY
Tiger says the positives to take from the delay is that they can all take their time to make sure it's done right. TW has learned so much about brand exposure and believes the product will be in an even better place when it takes off.
ON HIS PLANS FOR 2024
Best scenario would be a tournament a month in 2024. Maybe starting with the Genesis, then maybe the Players. And go from there. This week will hopefully be a step in the right direction, but Woods is not getting ahead of himself and wants to see what happens this week.
WOODS ON JAY MONAHAN AND THE JOB HE HAS DONE
Jay has been a part of the direction the game is going. He understands that what happened with the deal can't happen again, and it won't happen again. The player directors will help improve the processes.
Woods moves on to say team golf can play a big part in the future of golf, but ideas need to be thrashed out to make sure it works for everyone involved.
ON WHAT INVESTORS ARE INVESTING IN
We have to protect the integrity of our Tour, and what that looks like going forward. Trying to figure that out over the past few months has been a difficult task. There are a lot of moving parts which don't help trying to get a deal done. But we have to protect the players in this.
TW says he "totally understands" why Rory McIlroy moved away from the Policy Board. TW says Rory was in contention in almost every tournament he played in while also being the spokesman - that was tough on him.
WOODS ON WHAT MOTIVATED HIM TO CONTINUE PLAYING
I love competing. I miss playing, the group feeling out here. Once I believe I can't win again, then I'll walk away. A reporter asks him whether he still believes he can win this week. He replied: "Absolutely."
ON RYDER CUP CAPTAINCY
There's too much going on with our Tour to think about that right now. Says the Ryder Cup can "take a beat" for the time being.
DO YOU HAVE FAITH IN JAY?
That was part of why I came on to the board. I do have faith in him, and that's why I came onto the board. But what happened before can't happen again. I was frustrated the players were never involved. This is our Tour. There is no Tour without the players.
I am confident a deal can happen. Everyone is working right now with no animosity because we all want a deal to happen before the end of the year.
That's all from Tiger Woods this afternoon. He is off to prepare for the Pro-Am on Wednesday and tune up ahead of the competitive action on Thursday.
WHAT OUR NEWS EDITOR THOUGHT...
A fascinating Tiger press conference as always, and I found it noticeable how he appeared to be very unhappy with how the merger went down. "It can't happen again" and "that can't happen again" was a phrase he used multiple times, with the key point he was unhappy with being the fact that players were completely unaware.
Woods called the PGA Tour "our tour" and that's clearly why he joined the board, to ensure that players remain in control.
Elsewhere, it was remarkable to hear he hopes to play one event per month next year and also very pleasing to hear he is pain-free in the ankle.
So to summarise, my key takeaways were...
- Very unhappy that players weren't made aware of PIF framework deal
- Quietly confident in his health that he could play 12 events next year
- Says he "absolutely" can win at elite level - surely another W is on the way next year if the body holds up
WOODS ON WHAT DRIVES HIM AND CAN HE WIN AGAIN?
I love this so much pic.twitter.com/HMgA83g4tkNovember 28, 2023
"A TOURNAMENT A MONTH"
Sights set on 2024. pic.twitter.com/swdI5kMHI2November 28, 2023
WOODS MEETS DIMEGLIO:
Lovely scenes as Woods stopped by to greet renowned journalist Steve DiMeglio, who has been battling cancer.
After his presser, @TigerWoods went straight to @Steve_DiMeglio to give him a hug and catch up ❤️The longtime golf writer is currently battling cancer and covering the Hero World Challenge this week. pic.twitter.com/NIc1G7tosiNovember 28, 2023
A REMINDER OF THE TEE TIMES THIS WEEK:
Tiger Woods plays with Justin Thomas in his first round back since April, with the 15-time Major champion and two-time PGA Champion out at 11.52am ET on Thursday morning.
View all Hero World Challenge tee times.
TIGER WOODS' LAST 10 RESULTS:
- 2023 Masters: WD
- 2023 Genesis Invitational: T45
- 2022 Open: MC
- 2022 PGA Championship: WD
- 2022 Masters: 47
- 2020 Masters: T38
- 2020 Zozo Championship: T72
- 2020 US Open: MC
- 2020 BMW Championship: T51
- 2020 The Northern Trust: T58
"MY GAME FEELS RUSTY"
“I’m just as curious as all of you are.”How do you think @TigerWoods will do in his return to professional golf? pic.twitter.com/de5hoA6eQwNovember 28, 2023
NEW DRIVER IN THE BAG FOR TIGER?
The Golf Channel's Todd Lewis reports that Woods has a new TaylorMade driver in the bag, which is the same one used by Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood at the DP World Tour Championship earlier in the month.
New equipment this week for @TigerWoods at the @HWC2016. He will use this @TaylorMadeGolf Qi10 LS driver that recently made the conforming list. pic.twitter.com/z2p9cEdQWpNovember 28, 2023