It’s time, again, to start getting excited about the possibility of another Tiger Woods comeback. No, really. The 14-time major champion could return to the PGA Tour next month, according to Woods’ friend and former Stanford teammate Notah Begay III.
Begay told a source that the U.S Open, a tournament Woods has won three times, is “probably the event that’s circled on his calendar, but he’s got to at least get one or two starts in before that just to see where his body, where his game is at and if he can hit the shots that he wants to hit.”
According to Begay, Tiger has been practicing and going through an abbreviated version of his normal preparation routine. He even said Woods might have been just a couple weeks short of giving it a go in the Masters.
“Tiger’s doing well. I think if there was another two weeks and he could have gotten maybe one start in before the Masters, it would have been a different story.”
Notah Begay III
Woods, who has been battling back issues for more than two years, began his most recent comeback attempt in December. He finished 15th out of a 17-player field at the Hero World Challenge that month, despite leading the field in birdies. He then missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, shooting 76-72, and withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Feb. 2, citing back spasms.
This follows a 15-month absence as Woods underwent his second and third back surgeries in less than two years. Given Woods’ recent history, there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical.
But, if Begay’s prediction is correct, one likely scenario would be Tiger playing both the AT&T Byron Nelson, May 18-21, and the Memorial Tournament, June 1-4, in preparation for the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, June 15-18. This would give him two tournaments to brush off the rust ahead of the U.S. Open, without playing back-to-back weeks.
Tiger’s only win at the Byron Nelson came in 1997, and he has won the Memorial Tournament four times, most recently in 2012. Although he typically only plays in the Players and Memorial ahead of the U.S. Open, he could also choose to enter the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational (May 25-28) or the FedEx St. Jude Classic (June 8-11) for some extra preparation.
Tiger has teased his fans for most of the last three years, falling wildly short of expectations–or, short of wild expectations–between setbacks since his last run as World No. 1 during a dominant 2013.
Despite Tiger’s surgeries and the limited flashes of his old form, Begay is optimistic about Woods’ next comeback.
“I think it’s going to be a Tiger that we saw at the Hero World Challenge. A Tiger that still has the ability to go out and make as many birdies as players in the rest of the field, but can’t really overpower a golf course like a Dustin Johnson or a Brooks Koepka or a Rory McIlroy.”
Notah Begay III
With each failed comeback, the expectations for Tiger’s future dwindle. At this point, most of the golf world is simply hoping for a healthy Tiger who can make a weekend charge every once in while. Nonetheless, the possibility of a Tiger comeback is always something worth getting excited about.