Stage Set For Tiger Woods' Latest Comeback Alongside McIlroy In 'The Match' On Saturday

Tiger Woods will use a golf cart to play with Rory McIlroy in charity exhibition against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas

Tiger Woods playing in The Match with his golf buggy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tiger Woods will make his latest return to action with the aid of a golf cart as he partners Rory McIlroy to play Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in the latest edition of The Match.

The 15-time Major champion has not played since The Open in July, and had to pull out of his scheduled comeback at the recent Hero World Challenge due to a foot injury.

Woods will now use a golf cart to take part in the The Match VII - a televised 12-hole exhibition event being played under the lights at the Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Florida on Saturday evening.

The soon-to-be 47-year-old is suffering with plantar fasciitis in the foot - a tissue inflation that causes pain in the heel – and says that merely walking around the course is a much bigger challenge than swinging the club.

"Being in a cart is a totally different deal,” said Woods though, who will play through the pain thanks to the use of a cart. “That's something I've done at home quite a bit.

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“When I was trying to gear up and be able to play in the Hero and see if I could actually do it, the walking part was the challenge, it wasn't actually swinging.

"I've got to get this plantar to heal and that just takes time. It's not something that happens overnight. It's going to take a lot of rest and healing and unfortunately, treatment. It's a tough road."

Woods, who was last seen on the golf course when missing the cut at St Andrews, says he can compete thanks to playing alongside McIlroy: "I can tell you one thing, I have the number one player on my team, so I'm good."

Long-time friend McIlroy had equal praise for his partner for the event which will be a better ball matchplay format against Thomas and Spieth.

"He's probably the best iron player that's ever lived,” McIlroy said of Woods. “Probably the best golfer that's ever lived. Period.

"I think if he can just get it out in the fairway, and get some looks in the fairway, I think we're going to have a really good chance."

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Against them will be long-time friends Spieth and Thomas, who have grown up playing golf together and now are pinching themselves about playing a match against their big golfing hero.

"If you told myself and JT in 2012 in college that we would be playing against these two in a match, that would be a really, really cool thing," said Spieth.

"We want to win it because of how much these two inspired us. It's a unique and really cool opportunity for us to try to take down a couple of the greats, a couple of the greatest that ever played."

Thomas and Spieth, who have formed a fearsome partnership in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, are the betting favourites to beat currently world number one McIlroy and the injured 15-time Major winner Woods.

Woods being Woods though, he's coming for nothing less than a win, and insists he can still play the game: “I can hit the golf ball and hit whatever shot you want. I just can't walk.”

Paul Higham
Contributor

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.