There’s no confirmation yet, but a date has potentially been set for Tiger Woods to return to competitive golf.
July 17, 2014 – the first day of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in England.
Understandably, Woods’s agent, Mark Steinberg, is keeping tight-lipped about these reports, which first came out through the Golf Channel several days ago. Steinberg has confirmed that Woods’s recovery from back surgery is going according to plan, telling media that “the pain that forced him to have the surgery is gone.” That can only be good news for those of us who miss having Woods around on Tour.
But before we all rush to circle our calendars and set those ridiculously early alarms to watch on TV, it’s time to think about what this really means for Woods’s future.
First, the fact that these rumors are out there all but guarantee that Woods won’t be ready to play in the US Open this June. That isn’t really a surprise, of course. If anything, it seems like a positive sign for the mindset of the player still clinging to the world’s No. 1 ranking. After missing the Masters, it can’t be easy for Woods to miss even one more major, but it looks like he’s prepared to do so if it means being better prepared to win when he comes back.
Unfortunately, it’s still a long road back to being ready to win a 15th major. While it’s not impossible to think that Woods could come back from his rehab and jump right into the Open, would it serve him better to have at least one “warmup” tournament stateside?
His own tournament, the Quicken Loans National, would make the most sense if he’s healthy enough to play. He won at Congressional the last time he played in 2012, and he’s probably got at least part of his schedule built around this tournament anyway. It’s a safe place for the inevitable media circus that will surround his return.
If he does wait until the Open to come back, then the conditions that define that tournament – gusty winds and long rough – could give anybody with a balky back fits. That could happen regardless of Woods’s timetable, but it’s something to consider, even given Woods’s positive history at the course. There wouldn’t be much worse than for Woods to come back at a major just to reinjure himself.
All in all, the good news is that it appears Woods is on schedule to return this summer, meaning golf will have its biggest star back for some of its biggest events. Hopefully he’s really taking all the time he needs, because that’s the only way he’ll keep his spot at the top.