NEW YORK: Tiger Woods is returning to competition for the first time without the use of a cart since July, announcing Friday he will play at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles.
Woods was hopeful of playing next week’s tournament at Riviera, where he is the host of an event that typically had the strongest field of the West Coast swing even before it became elevated with a $20 million purse.
The uncertainty came from a bout with plantar fasciitis as he was preparing to play in December. That kept him from playing in his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. He played a made-for-TV exhibition over 12 holes and the PNC Championship with his son. Both times he was allowed to ride in a cart.
Carts are not allowed on the PGA Tour — Casey Martin used one under the Americans with Disabilities Act — and Woods has said he was not interested in using one to play at the highest level.
“I’m ready to play an ACTUAL PGA Tour event next week,” Woods said on Twitter, a reference to playing only three majors last year.
It will be his first regular PGA Tour event since Oct. 25, 2020, when he tied for 72nd against a 78-man field in his title defense of the Zozo Championship. The tournament had moved that year from Japan to Sherwood Country Club in California because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Woods has said he can hit all the shots, “I just can’t get from Point A to Point B.”
“That’s awesome,” Max Homa said of the news after his second round in the Phoenix Open. “I imagine we’ll be carrying him down the hill on 1 and up it on 18, which no one would mind. But it’s awesome. I’m really glad he’s back. I think we’re privileged any time he plays now.”
That Woods can play next week is an encouraging sign that he will return to the Masters in April, although missing the Bahamas was an indication Woods doesn’t entirely control when his legs and feet will act up.
“Any time Tiger can be present on the golf course playing makes the tournament even better,” Jon Rahm said at the Phoenix Open. “So, I’m hoping he can play comfortably and I’m hoping he can play well.”
Woods was recovering from a fifth back surgery in February 2021 when he crashed his SUV on a coastal road in Los Angeles two days after the Genesis Invitational, suffering multiple fractures of his right leg and ankle.
Woods missed 14 months, and it was remarkable that he returned to the Masters last April and made the cut. He also made the cut in the PGA Championship, only to withdraw after the third round of Southern Hills with a severe limp. He skipped the US Open to make sure he was ready for St. Andrews, but missed the cut in the British Open.
“It’s great,” Justin Thomas said at the Phoenix Open. “Any time he is on property, let alone playing, is great for the event.”
Riviera is where Woods made his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old amateur in 1992, and remains the one course he has never quite mastered. He played 11 times at Riviera as a pro, the most of any course without winning.