Tiger Woods has played in just five tournament since his car crash in February 2021. His presence in the 2023 Hero World Challenge this week will end a hiatus from competition dating back to April when he was forced to withdraw from the Masters with an ankle injury. Despite the laundry list of injuries and concerns over his ability to walk 72 holes, however, Woods is gearing up towards a busier 2024 that may include more than just the four major championships.
"I think that best scenario would be maybe a tournament a month," Woods said. "I think that's realistic whether that's -- you would have to start with maybe at Genesis and something in March near The Players. Again, we have set up right now the biggest events are one per month. It sets itself up for that. Now, I need to get myself ready for all that. I think this week is a big step in that direction."
If Woods' meets the goal, it would mean playing more in 2024 than he has the past two years combined. The 15-time major champion played nine rounds in 2022 across three tournaments, and will have completed 10 rounds in 2023 at the end of the Hero World Challenge. The uptick can be seen as encouraging as Woods' health improves and stamina increases.
"My game feels rusty, I haven't played in a while," said Woods. "I had my subtalar fused. I'm excited to compete and play and I'm just as curious as all of you are to see what happens because I haven't done it in a while.
"I can tell you this: I don't have any of the pain that I had at Augusta or pre that in my ankle. Well, other parts are taking the brunt of the load so I'm a little more sore in other areas, but the ankle's good. So that surgery was a success."
Pain is the focal point for Woods moving forward. While he has flashed brilliance with rounds like his opening 69 at the Genesis Invitational this season, he has also displayed the inability to compete once the weather turns. Frigid temperatures at the 2022 Masters and torrential downpours at the 2022 PGA Championship and 2023 Masters proved too much for his body to handle. No matter what recovery processes he may have in place, nothing will prepare the 47-year-old for the harsh conditions Mother Nature may present.
Which is why the potential 2024 schedule he laid out Tuesday makes all the sense in the world. Not only will Woods have the time to recover in between tournaments, but he will have the historical weather on his side with visits to California, Florida, Georgia and Kentucky in the spring and North Carolina in the summer. As for The Open, we will have to wait and see.
Should Woods once again face wet and soggy conditions in 2024, his fire to compete will continue to burn. Toughing out rounds like his second at Augusta National to make the cut for a record 23rd consecutive year, Woods' internal drive and mental fortitude remain.
"I love competing, I love playing. I miss being out here with the guys, I miss the camaraderie and the fraternity-like atmosphere out here and the overall banter," said Woods. "But what drives me is I love to compete. There will come a point in time, I haven't come around to it fully yet, that I won't be able to win again. When that day comes, I'll walk -- well, now I can walk. I won't say run away, but I'm going to walk away."
As does his belief in winning. Stuck on No. 82 since his victory at the 2019 Zozo Championship, Woods remains tied with Sam Snead for most wins in PGA Tour history. When asked if he still believes he can raise a trophy on the PGA Tour again, Woods cut off a member of the media and replied with a grin.