‘He’s playing Riv? Nice:’ Tiger Woods’ comeback the talk of the town at Phoenix Open

(L-R) Jon Rahm of Spain and Max Homa of the United States stand on the second hole during the first round of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on February 09, 2023 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Many pros were excited to hear about Tiger Woods' return next week.

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The biggest smile Max Homa cracked during his quick four-and-a-half-minute session with the media Friday after his second round of the WM Phoenix Open had nothing to do with his golf.

It was because of a joke about Tiger Woods.

“I imagine we’ll be carrying him down the hill on 1 and up it on 18,” Homa said. “Which no one would mind.”

It’s not like Homa had nothing to smile about with his game. He had just posted his second straight 69 to place him firmly in the top 20 of the delayed $20 million tournament heading into the weekend.

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But on Friday, the craziest party in golf might have taken a back seat to a player who hasn’t played the event in eight years.

Friday afternoon, Woods announced on Twitter his return to a regular PGA Tour event for the first time since 2020 next week at the Genesis Invitational.

And while Homa cracked the joke about the injuries that limited Woods to just nine official rounds in 2022 (all at major championships), he was still thrilled to hear his boyhood idol was ready to return to competitive golf.

“It’s awesome. I’m really glad he’s back,” Homa said. “I think we’re privileged any time he plays now. Obviously, we don’t know his schedule. Seems like he’s going to try to play the majors. So it’s really awesome he’s playing a [regular] Tour event.”

Woods also plays the host role at the Genesis and Homa added that it will be especially exciting for him to do double duty that week at Riviera Country Club.

While Homa had already found out about Woods’ return before he arrived at the media center, Jon Rahm only learned of the announcement when a reporter asked him about it after his second-round 66.

“He’s playing Riv? Nice!” the World No. 3 said. “Great to hear.”

Rahm then paused a moment and contemplated the last time he saw Woods. He said it was at Woods’ Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas where the 15-time major winner had to withdraw due to plantar fasciitis in his foot, casting doubt on when he’d next be able to walk 72 holes at a tournament. Woods played twice later in December, both with the aid of a cart, at The Match VII and PNC Championship.

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“After all he’s gone through, it’s incredible that he keeps trying,” Rahm said. “But I know he’s going to keep doing everything he can to still try to win more tournaments. Possibly get that 83rd [PGA Tour] win. Hopefully, obviously in his mind [another] major, right?

“So it’s a true honor for all of us. Any time Tiger can be present on the golf course playing makes the tournament even better. So I’m hoping he can play comfortably and I’m hoping he can play well.”

For 20-year-old Tom Kim, who has only played in the same event with Woods a handful of times, his presence in the field adds some extra motivation.

“Hopefully I can kind of work myself up and kind of hopefully play with him if I get the chance,” Kim said, barely containing his excitement.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.