It’s been one year, six weeks and a day since Tiger Woods last hit a golf ball in competition, but the wait could soon be over.
The former World No. 1 announced that he will be competing in three tournaments at the start of the 2016-17 season: Safeway Open, Turkish Airlines Open and the Tiger Woods Foundation-run Hero World Challenge.
“My rehabilitation is to the point where I’m comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do,” Woods said on his website. “Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go.
“I’m looking forward to going to California for my foundation event and Safeway. I’m also excited to return to Turkey and Albany. It could be a fun fall.”
The 14-time major winner hasn’t competed since the Wyndham Championship in August 2015 where he finished tied for 10th.
However, after undergoing a third back operation in 20 months in October last year, Woods stressed the importance of taking his time in returning from injury.
“It was difficult missing tournaments that are important to me, but this time I was smart about my recovery and didn’t rush it,” he said.
“It was great spending time with my children Sam and Charlie, and also working on a lot of projects including golf-course design, the upcoming 20th anniversary of my foundation and my book about the 1997 Masters.
“But I missed competing. I want to thank all the fans for their kindness and concern. I’ve been a pro about 20 years, and their support has never waned.”
The Safeway Open, which begins next week on October 13, gives Woods the chance to add to his totaly of 79 PGA Tour titles and close in on Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82.
Good wishes have poured in from current and former pros, delighted at the prospect of the 40-year-old’s return. Sweden’s former world No. 7 Jesper Parnevik, revealed Woods’ scintillating form in practice.
“I see Tiger at the Medalist (Golf Club),” Parnevik told Golf Digest. “We talk and have played nine holes together.
“By the way, he’s been hitting a lot of balls, and he’s hitting it great. He’s pounding it a mile and flushing everything.
“On the range, at least, his trajectory and ball flight are like the Tiger we knew 15 years ago. Comebacks are never a sure thing, but something tells me his might be spectacular.”
Golf great Jack Nicklaus and Rory McIlroy were among those to offer support after Woods announced he could return to action last month.
“It’s great to see you back and in good health. You’ve done so much for the game, and it’s better with you playing. Good luck!” Nicklaus said, while McIlroy said he misses “the Tiger buzz.”