Golf: Tiger Woods back in the swing of things at Hero World Challenge

Tiger Woods in a Florida courtroom, after pleading guilty last Friday to reckless driving. He will return after a nine-month injury layoff.
Tiger Woods in a Florida courtroom, after pleading guilty last Friday to reckless driving. He will return after a nine-month injury layoff.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Tiger Woods has steadily been ramping up his golfing activities, and on Monday, he declared that he would return to competition this month.

The 14-time Major winner is set to compete at the Hero World Challenge, which will mark his first official event since February's Dubai Desert Classic. He withdrew from that event with back spasms, then underwent spinal fusion surgery in April, his fourth back procedure.

He was arrested for driving under the influence in May, blaming the incident on multiple pain medications he was taking, and has been putting his game back together in the months since then.

"I am excited to return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge," the 41-year-old said in a statement on his website.

The Nov 30-Dec 3 Hero World Challenge is run by a Woods-owned event management company and it benefits his charitable foundation.

The Bahamas-based tournament, which he has won five times, features an elite field of 18 golfers. Sixteen of this year's entrants are ranked in the top 24, including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and 27th-ranked Daniel Berger.

Woods, whose world ranking has plunged to 1,180, will complete the field.

"I'd like to thank the committee of one for picking myself and Daniel Berger to play this year," Woods joked on Twitter. He has used social media this month to share videos of his progress, from hitting iron shots to finally being able to swing a driver again.

He last won a PGA tournament in 2013. Over the 2014 and 2015 seasons, he played in 18 events, with no wins and seven missed cuts.

At last month's Presidents Cup, where Woods served as a captain's assistant, he told reporters: "I don't know what my future holds for me."

His turnaround has surprised even those in his inner circle.

Woods' confidant and four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III told Golf Channel: "I didn't think it was going this well, this quickly.

"Most of us that are close to him, I think we were coming to terms with the fact that we might never see him in a competitive arena again. It was hard to process that."

Woods' former swing coach Butch Harmon told Sky Sports that the Hero World Challenge is a good event for the American to make his return.

"He's playing an appropriate event because there are only 18 players, even though they are top-echelon players," he said. "It's a more relaxed type of event. It's his tournament. I think he's going to feel a little more relaxed there."

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'Woods back in the swing of things at Hero Challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe