Tiger Woods will be back at the Genesis Invitational this year. He just won’t be playing in the event.
Instead, Woods will reprise his role from 2021 as non-playing tournament host. But his return to Riviera Country Club will be particularly significant given that it will mark the one-year anniversary of the car crash that resulted in a series of surgeries, a broken leg and extensive rehab.
Woods surprised the golf world with a return to semi-competitive golf at the PNC Championship in December, where he played alongside his son Charlie in the two-day, two-player scramble and they nearly won the event, finishing second behind John Daly and John Daly, Jr. Woods rode in a cart for much of the week, skipped hitting tee shots where he could and downplayed his readiness, but his appearance — and his crisp golf game — fueled speculation about his potential PGA Tour return.
“No, no, no, no,” he said when asked whether assessments of his game as Tour-ready (including from Matt Kuchar) were accurate. “I totally disagree. I’m not at that level. I can’t compete against these guys right now, no. It’s going to take a lot of work to get to where I feel like I can compete at these guys and be at a high level.”
Still, optimistic Woods supporters speculated about a potential return at the Genesis, where he serves as tournament host and his TGR Foundation is the primary charitable beneficiary. That’s not going to happen; while players technically have until Friday, Feb. 11 to commit, sources confirmed that Woods won’t be competing in the 2022 event. Still, he plans to attend in person to serve as tournament host.
We haven’t heard much from Woods since the PNC’s conclusion in December. All we’ve seen of him in an Instagram post for Popstroke, a golf-and-entertainment company in which he has a stake. And while there’s not much to read into his upcoming appearance, it’s an encouraging sign that his recovery has progressed to the point where he’s comfortable returning to the public eye. It’s quite possible we could even hear from Woods ourselves on Sunday. He’s joined CBS’s final-round coverage in previous years.
The Genesis field, which is limited to 120 players, has taken shape nicely even without its high-profile host in the mix. A bevy of big names are expected to play including seven former world No. 1s: Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jason Day and Adam Scott.
We did hear from Woods in January when he announced that Aaron Beverly would be the recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption, which is awarded annually and represents “the advancement of diversity in the game of golf.” Beverly is a 2017 graduate of Sacramento State who will be making his PGA Tour debut.
So when can we expect to see Woods return to competitive play? We may know more next week, if Woods provides an update on his health and game while speaking to reporters or appearing on the broadcast. He made it clear in December that he’d be interested in playing a limited schedule going forward, given the limitations of his health:
“I don’t foresee this leg ever being what it used to be, hence I’ll never have the back what it used to be, and the clock’s ticking,” Woods said at the Hero. “I’m getting older, I’m not getting any younger. All that combined means that a full schedule and a full practice schedule and the recovery that it would take to do that, no, I don’t have any desire to do that. But to ramp up for a few events a year as Mr. Hogan did, he did a pretty good job of it, and there’s no reason that I can’t do that and feel ready.”
Those few events, then? A few potential options:
The Masters (April 7-10). The game’s greatest stage is the site of Woods’ most celebrated victories. It’s also where he has staged multiple comebacks in the past; he favors a controlled environment, and few environments are as controlled as Augusta National. It’s likely to be warm in Georgia in April, which makes it easier to get his body ready for play. And he knows the course as well as anybody could know a course.
The Open Championship (July 14-17). He loses the benefit of predictably good Augusta weather but gains a few months’ extra recovery. St. Andrews is among Woods’ favorite courses in the world. And his game seems well suited to links golf, rewarding creativity and precision over power and strength.
The Hero World Challenge (Dec. 2022). If Woods’ timetable is further off, we could expect to see him in the Bahamas. He has staged comebacks there before because it’s basically the ideal setting to return to competitive play: a flat golf course, a small field, limited spectators, perfect weather.
Woods could also return at other events, of course. He might need more time but feel a strong desire to return for other majors like the PGA Championship at Southern Hills (May 19-22) or the U.S. Open at The Country Club (June 16-19). He could rally for the Players (March 10-13) as a tune-up for the Masters. He could play a familiar Tour stop to get tournament-ready like the Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 3-6) or the Memorial (June 2-5).
We won’t know until we know. Regardless, the golf world will be eager to see him back at Riviera, handing off a trophy — and considering when he’ll next contend for one himself.