The wait is over. Tiger Woods is playing the Hero World Challenge.
Woods tweeted at 5 p.m. ET Monday that he’ll make his return to competitive golf at next month’s Hero World Challenge, which will be his first start since February.
“I am excited to return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge,” Woods said on his website. “Albany is the perfect setting and it will be great to join this outstanding field. I want to thank Pawan Munjal and Hero MotoCorp for their continued support of this tournament and my foundation. I would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support during my injury.”
The Hero World Challenge is an unofficial PGA Tour event run by Woods’s foundation at Albany, a resort in the Bahamas. It’s a no-cut, 18-player event, and it’s also where Woods made a highly anticipated return last year. Playing for the first time in just over 15 months after recovering from two back surgeries, Woods finished 15th out of 17 (four under) with rounds of 73, 65, 70 and 76. He led the field in birdies but made too many big numbers to stay in contention.
Now, the Hero will be the site of yet another Woods return, and even more eyeballs will focus on the 14-time major winner.
But much has changed since last year.
After the 2016 Hero, Woods missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open (76-72) and then flew across the world for the Dubai Desert Classic. He opened with a 77 on Feb. 2 and withdrew from the tournament before the second round started, citing back spasms. Woods had planned to play the Genesis Open and Honda Classic later in the month, but he withdrew from both, unable to find comfort in his back. He missed the Masters, and on April 20 he announced his fourth back surgery and faced yet another lengthy layoff.
But Woods’s recovery took a frightening turn one month later. He was arrested at 2 a.m. on May 29 when officers found him unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle and awkwardly parked on the side of the road. It was later found that he had five drugs in his system. (On Friday, he pleaded guilty and will enter a diversion program.)
On June 19, Woods tweeted he was receiving professional help to manage his medications for back pain and a sleep disorder, and on July 3 he tweeted that he had recently completed an out-of-state private intensive program.
Meanwhile, Woods slowly progressed into golfing shape. On Aug. 31 he tweeted that the doctor had OK’d him to start pitching, and that was the first of what would become a video tweet-storm from Woods. He tweeted a video of himself hitting iron shots on Oct. 7, a driver on Oct. 15 and his patented stinger on Oct. 23.
But with each tweet rumors continued to circulate. His former swing coach, Hank Haney, was adamant that Woods would play the Hero. Turns out, Haney was right all along.
Last month, when Woods was an assistant captain for the U.S. Presidents Cup team, he admitted that he could “definitely” see a scenario in which he doesn’t return to competitive golf. He was also asked if he still had the belief in himself, if 100 percent healthy, to become the best golfer in the world again.
“I don’t know what 100 percent means after eight surgeries, but I’ll try and get as close as I can to that number, yes,” he said. “But as I said, we just take it one step at a time. It’s a process, and I’m in no hurry.”
The first step of the process is 31 days away—and counting.