Tiger Woods confidant expects Woods to play Hero World Challenge — with potential caveat

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods' last start came at the Open Championship in July.

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Will he play, or won’t he?

It’s a familiar question when it comes to Tiger Woods, these days more than ever.

As Woods has continued his recovery from his February 2021 car accident, he has played in just three events in 2022: the Masters, the PGA Championship and the Open Championship. He played four competitive rounds at Augusta National but sputtered out over the weekend with a pair of 78s. He also made the cut at the PGA but withdrew after a third-round 78. At the Open Championship, Woods shot 78-75 to miss the cut by nine.

In all three of those tournaments, he never looked fully comfortable on his injured right leg. But with Woods any pessimism about his most recent start is always tempered by cautious optimism about his next appearance.  

The most likely site of the next Woods-in-spikes sighting would be at his own event, the Hero World Challenge, in the Bahamas in early December. Whether that would be in the role of a player-host or only a host is uncertain. On Tuesday, Woods announced 17 players for the 20-man field. He was not one of them, but there are still three spots remaining for exemptions, one of which Woods could certainly gift to himself, assuming he’s feeling physically up to the task.

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Will he? At least one Woods whisperer — his old pal Notah Begay — says, yes, Woods is likely to play.

But with one caveat, Begay speculated: Woods could be behind the wheel of a cart.

“We may see a late-minute introduction of a cart rule, that would be great,” Begay said Wednesday from Jim Furyk’s PGA Tour Champions event in Jacksonville, Fla. “It will just be another chance for us to see how far he’s come.”

If Woods were to ride at the Hero, it would come as somewhat of a surprise. While the Hero is not an official PGA Tour event, it does offer Official World Golf Ranking points and has a loaded, if limited, field, including 13 of the top-25 players in the world. It’s proper golf.

Woods took a cart at the PNC Championship last December, where he played alongside his son Charlie. But the PNC is an exhibition. When asked that week if he’d ever consider taking a cart in an official PGA Tour event, Woods said: “Absolutely not. Not for a PGA Tour event, no. That’s just not who I am. That’s not how I’ve always been, and if I can’t play at that level, I can’t play at that level.”

It’s not known whether the PGA Tour or the Hero’s organizers have discussed the possibility of Woods taking a cart. When reached by GOLF.com Friday, the Hero’s tournament director, Mike Antolini, referred the inquiry to the PGA Tour. A PGA Tour spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zach Johnson of The United States talks to the media in a press conference during the Ryder Cup 2023 Year to Go Media Event at Marco Simone Golf Club on October 04, 2022 in Rome, Italy and Tiger Woods of the United States reacts during singles matches of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 30, 2018 in Paris, France.
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On Wednesday, Begay was asked whether other players might begrudge Woods for using a cart.  

“With everything that’s gone on and how he’s really stood up on behalf of the players and the Tour, I don’t think we would begrudge him a whole lot of anything these days,” Begay said.

That seems to check out. As Will Zalatoris told journalist Graham Bensinger last month:

“The part that amazes me [about Woods] is that he just has such a hard time walking but, man, he can still play some good golf. Tiger could get a cart if he wants to, but you know he’s never going to take it because that’s who he is. Selfishly, I’m like, dude, get in the cart, I’m going to play with you, I want to see you when you’re 50, you’ve proven people wrong countless times coming back from injuries and I’m like get in the damn cart!”

The Hero World Challenge is Dec 1-4.

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.

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