Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods’ injury, the Match and Viktor Hovland’s win
Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, our team discusses Tiger Woods’ injury and prospects for 2023, this week’s Match and Viktor Hovland’s win at the Hero World Challenge.
1. Set to return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, an event his foundation hosts, Tiger Woods tweeted on Monday that he developed plantar fasciitis in his right foot and had to withdraw. Woods also admitted he had a couple of surgeries in the past year, but didn’t elaborate. Does Woods’ latest health update give you more pessimism about his future to compete than what you believed before?
Josh Sens, Senior Writer (@joshsens): The clock ticks for everyone. Woods is no exception. Like a lot of people, I’ve underestimated his ability to bounce back so many times that I’m hesitant to short him again. But at this point, the house of cards that is his health seems just too fragile for any serious optimism. At this point, to expect him to play all four majors next year is to overestimate him.
James Colgan, Assistant Editor (@jamescolgan26): I don’t think any short-term injury qualifies as “increasing” my pessimism in Tiger’s long-term health concerns. If something winds up being the final blow to his playing career, it won’t be plantar fasciitis.
Jack Hirsh, Assistant Editor (@JR_HIRSHey): Agree with both my colleagues above. It’s hard to count Woods out and it’s also unlikely plantar fasciitis knocks him out for good. I will say knowing this injury was caused by the previous ones does not bode well for his improving durability to play more than he did in 2022.
2. While Woods didn’t play the Hero, he’s still teeing it up the next two weekends. He also mentioned his goal for 2023 is to play in all four majors and “maybe” one or two more events. Two parter: What are those other one or two events he might be thinking of, and what’s the percent chance he plays four majors next year?
Sens. After Augusta, you’d think the major he most wants to play in is the Open at Liverpool, where he won before. But as the last of the four, I think it’s also the least likely appearance for him. The longer the season goes, the greater chance of a health issue arising that even he can’t overcome. He’ll play the Masters, but I’m not banking on anything after that. I’m sure he’d love to play the Memorial, but that’s a tough walk. Bay Hill? It’s relatively flat and he’s won it a zillion times.
Colgan: 15 percent, and here’s a simple reason why: Do YOU want to go to Rochester in May? No, you don’t. Does a player with long-standing health issues related to cold weather want to go, either? No, they do not. I think we see him in Augusta, L.A. and Liverpool, though.
Hirsh: The PGA should have foreseen this when it moved the tournament to May! Keep the PGA in the southern states while the U.S. Open takes the northern states. Anyway, I’ll give him a 30-percent chance he plays in all four majors. I agree with James that the PGA is the one he’s most likely to skip this year. I think the biggest question on his schedule is whether he’s willing to risk his body to play at Riviera, where he’s also hosting. Could his duties prove too much to play and host? Will he risk getting hurt again two months before the Masters? Check back in February.
Sens: Free-wheeling? I guess it was by Tiger’s standards. But what struck me more was how close he plays everything to the vest —mentioning surgeries but then declining to say what he was dealing with. Why the caginess? Was it like one of those old ads: “An itch so private, some people won’t even discuss it with their doctor?” Probably not. You wonder if there was any good reason for not saying more. Or is the guardedness just so ingrained that there’s really no other way to go?
Colgan: Sens, I don’t know many things, but I’m quite certain I’ve never seen one of those ads. Sounds terrifying! I think Tiger realizes his words are his legacy’s best defense right now. Good on him for playing defense!
Hirsh: Glad I’m not the only one, James. Related to our previous question, my biggest takeaway was how optimistic he was with his schedule. Does Tiger really think he can play five or six times next year? As I mentioned above, I think four times might be the bar, whether it be three majors and one of the invitationals, or all four majors. To add a couple more in what has become such a condensed schedule seems awful ambitious for the man who’s had more surgeries than just about any athlete I know and turns 47 this month.
4. The latest iteration of the Match kicks off at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy taking on Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. What are you hoping to see from this one from an entertainment/production standpoint?
Sens: That Tiger plays without a wince or a hitch in his step, and that he and Rory wax the youngsters while delivering some good verbal barbs along the way.
Colgan: LIV has been at the center of every golf course conversation for the past nine months. This event is *supposed* to bring fans into a day on the course with golf’s top players. If it’s true to form, LIV will be on the minds of those in the field. Give me LIV discourse, or give me death!
Hirsh: I mentioned last week how I’m not too high on the Match series. That being said, these guys are all good friends so the trash talk should make this a little more interesting than the Brooks-Bryson snooze fest from last year.
5. Viktor Hovland, despite a scare on the 18th, won the Hero World Challenge for a second-straight year. Carrying him was putting — on Saturday, he had 23 putts, on Sunday, 24. If Hovland’s flatstick stays somewhere in that zone, what do you see from him going forward?
Sens: Putting is always a difference-maker. But giving a monster ball striker like Hovland a permanently red-hot flat stick would be like giving Sauron the One Ring. A large handful of wins. Probably a major. Possible global domination. Even Middle Earth would be in play. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It was one week.
Colgan: Man, it’s hard to know where Vik’s ceiling is until we see him win more frequently during the glut of the regular season. As of right now, fall season king feels fitting.
Hirsh: I’ll amend that title to “tropical paradise king.” Hovland has won in Puerto Rico, Mexico twice and now the Bahamas twice. As for his putting, you can kind of put him in the same category as Collin Morikawa. When they got the flat stick working, few are going to beat them. If they don’t, hitting iron shots can get you only so far when you’re missing the putts.