Tour Confidential: One year removed from his fourth back surgery, what does the next year hold for Tiger Woods?

April 22, 2018 conducts a weekly roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and GOLF Magazine. Check in every Sunday night for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com.

1. It’s been one year since Tiger Woods announced his fourth back surgery, but what followed was a highly unpredictable turn of events — the DUI arrest, the inpatient treatment, the firing of his swing coach and, eventually, his return and the surprisingly strong play that followed. What does the *next* year hold for him?

Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF (@JoshSens): None of the above, though I think there’s a decent chance we’ll see him HIRE a swing coach. Oh, and more strong play given what he’s gone through — good enough, at least, to earn him a spot (or a captain’s pick) on the U.S. Ryder Cup squad in France.

Sean Zak, associate editor, (@sean_zak): I think Tiger is **good enough** to win a more ho-hum Tour event right now. Maybe his event, The National. I think Augusta proved that the majors will be a different beast for him. I don’t see him contending at Shinnecock, but the British Open and PGA might come around at the right time with the right amount of reps. He’ll continue earning plenty of Ryder Cup points and I presume will earn a captain’s pick to Paris. Beyond that, he’ll continue focusing on the game, his children, and seemingly not much else. If that makes him happy, it’ll be a good year.

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, (@Jeff_Ritter): His back is holding up so far, but Tiger’s body is still the ultimate wild card. (And that includes his knees, Achilles, neck and any other setback that could crop up.) If his run of good health continues, he’s going to win somewhere. Like Sean said, a good bet is a breakthrough at a lower-wattage event, like maybe his Bahamian stop in December. In the meantime, he’ll play on the Ryder Cup squad, and I could see it all building to him winning a major in 2019 or ‘20 if he’s able to continue to practice and play as much as he’d like.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, GOLF (@AlanShipnuck): One thing I’ve learned is to never make predictions for Tiger. Ten years ago he was the Chosen One, a lock to break Jack’s record. Five years ago he had rebuilt his life post-scandal and was No. 1 again. One year ago he was a mess. Right now he’s rebuilding his life and his golf game, but who knows?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, GOLF: I’m not so sure about the rebuilt life circa 2013, Alan. I think he was just playing good golf, but it wasn’t good like his really good golf had been. Not even close. Some of his on-course actions looked like he was desperate to reclaim part of his former self. I would like to think, after his Memorial Day arrest and his stint in drug rehab, that now he really is rebuilding his life. Maybe he would tell us that his life doesn’t need rebuilding. But if he is, that’s a long process, and it’s his next year and the year after that, and on from there.

John Wood, caddie for Matt Kuchar (@johnwould): He will win again. And I wouldn’t put it past him to contend or even win a major. Just seeing him in contention (multiple times) after such a long layoff made me think his winning again will be sooner than later as long as he is healthy. I’m just guessing, but I would think Tiger was maybe looking at this first handful as a test to see where his back was, where his psyche was, and he passed both of those with flying colors. He now knows where he is at, and I’m sure has a plan moving forward.

2. The field is set for next week’s Zurich Classic team event, which will feature 10 of the top-14 players in the world. Which twosome will (or should!) put the most fear into the field?

Sens: Does fear come into play in an event like this? On paper, Stenson and Rose make a daunting duo. But I’ll go with the Spanish twosome of Sergio and Rafa.

Bamberger: I would really like to agree with you, Prof. Sens, about the Team Europe—Rose and Stenson—but your other Team Europe pick is so cray-cray (the Spaniards) I fear what it says about your judgment. And yet, I’m following you down that R&S path. Formidable in every way, including brain power.

Zak: Well, it’s Rose and Stenson for sure. No other team is as stacked with elite talent and playing as well as these two. Total upset if they don’t contend.

Ritter: Rose and Stenson seem menacing, but they teamed up last year and missed the cut, so … ¯_(ツ)_/¯. Put me down for Ryan Palmer-Jordan Spieth, who placed 4th last year.

Shipnuck: Bubba-Kooch. Lotsa firepower there, and they might just have an unbeatable quirky chemistry.

Wood: I make it a point to always agree with Alan when he’s right. All I know is it’ll be fun to be on the right side of those 340 yard drives for a change. Lots of questions: Will Bubba be annoyed by my constant body language? Will Ted Scott provide team socks? Will Teddy and I write a special song for their walk up music? Really looking forward to a “different” week on Tour. Not to insult any other tournaments on Tour, but it can be a grind, especially when you’ve worked a bunch in a row. It will be so interesting to do something completely different.

Bamberger: Amen, Brother Wood. This event is the most welcome Tour addition in years.


3. Joaquin Niemann, a 19-year-old and the former No. 1 amateur in the world, finished 6th in his pro debut at the Valero Texas Open on Sunday (five behind winner Andrew Landry). His performance brings to mind other strong debuts from fellow decorated amateurs like Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau. What kind of staying power does Niemann possess?

Ritter: Great debut and I’m excited to see more. Hard to predict what might happen for him this year at age 19, but by the time he’s able to buy beer in the U.S. he could be a star, don’t you think?

Sens: For sure he could be. But if we knew in advance what was going to happen, what fun would that be? What fun would anything be? If I wanted predictable, I’d watch the latest Disney movies over and over, not golf.

Zak: I wouldn’t want to cast Rahm-like expectations on the kid, but when you take control of and hold the No. 1 amateur spot these days, it means you’re an elite talent. When you can parlay that into some success on the Tour level, it only means more. Does he turn it into a Tour card quickly? Who knows. Probably not. He’s still super young. But would a year on the be an indictment? Nope. Not at 19 years old.

Shipnuck: I love his homegrown swing, and the kid definitely has swag. Hard to imagine he’s not headed for big things.

Bamberger: I would like to defer my answer to this question until late July 2030.

4. The European Tour and Ladies European Tour hosted both the men’s Trophee Hassan II and women’s Lalla Meryem Cup at different courses at the same club in Morocco this week, making it the ninth consecutive year these two events have teamed up. Should the PGA Tour and LPGA collaborate for a similar event?

Sens: Sure, but when? Is there a breath of room in the schedule to get an engaging field together? If so, bring it on.

Zak: Scheduling-wise, I see it working out around the U.S. Opens. Course-wise, I’m not sure where you look. Feels like it would have to be on the East Coast, but where? Not as simple as it may seem.

Ritter: It’s not quite the same thing, but I thought the back-to-back men’s and women’s U.S. Opens at Pinehurst in 2014 was inspired and worked great. I’d like to see the USGA try it again.

Shipnuck: I’d rather see them join forces for a mixed-team event. That’s a major omission in the pro golf scene.

Wood: Alan is on it tonight. I don’t think the PGA Tour would want to share the stage with the LPGA for something like that, quite honestly. But if you could entice a few headliners to play a mixed team event I think it would be a huge success.

Bamberger: I agree with Alan, and with Jeff. Consecutive weeks at the U.S. Open was great, but I think it would be better if the women played first. The USGA thinks the men need deeper rough and narrower fairways than the women, but they don’t. As for a regular-season mixed-team event, you already can get a sense of what the response would be just by looking at the New Orleans men’s event.

5. Last week,’s Joe Passov received a sneak preview of Woods’s first public design, Payne’s Valley, located at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Mo. The course is expected to open in 2019, and the TGR Design portfolio is now approaching 10 courses either completed or in the works. From what you’ve seen, read or heard, what’s your early read on Tiger Woods, course designer?

Sens: From what I’ve seen, it’s hard to tell. So far, Tiger has not been given the choicest plots of land to work with. His course at Diamante in Cabo doesn’t hold a candle to the original layout there, but instead of a sandy dunes scape, Tiger had an awkwardly sloping, rocky canvas to work with. I didn’t care for the resulting course but I think that would have been a tough act to pull off for a lot of architects. His course in the making at Big Cedar looked a lot more promising to me: a dramatic setting with a routing made to take advantage of and with a nice emphasis on playable fun. It looked find-your-ball hard, not lose-your-ball hard.

Zak: He seems committed to it! But that’s all I can really say, and it’s mainly from photos and videos. He seems committed to the designer role. That being said, an aging legend committed to the designer role generally has to commit to letting others have some control of the process, a la Coore and Crenshaw. Something tells me that Woods’s designs will be largely constructed via other people, and that’s just fine.

Ritter: I haven’t played a TGR course yet, but it sounds like he’s creating tracks that are payable and enjoyable for all ages. If that’s his m.o., bring ‘em on.

Shipnuck: I’ve heard nothing but good things about Bluejack National, and I like that Tiger is all-in on par-3 courses, putting courses and other ways to make it easier to learn the game. Remember all the talk, circa-1997, about how Tiger’s legacy would be growing the game? That never happened on the grassroots level. I’m assuming the guy has more money than he could spend – I think his ultimate legacy should be building well-designed, affordable muni courses all over the country. In the next 40 years he could build dozens and dozens, not only leaving an architectural legacy but providing easy access to kids everywhere. What a legacy *that* would be.

Wood: The only Tiger Woods designed course I have any knowledge of is Bluejack National outside Houston, and every pro I’ve talked with that has played it raves about it as a course and a facility. Tiger notices EVERYTHING, and I think that would serve him very well in course design. I think he would know what he wants, and why he wants it, which may be more important.

Bamberger: I really know nothing about his design work. But I know the simple courses he grew up playing, and I’ve seen the nods he has made in interviews to beginners and ordinary golfers, so I think his design heart is in the right place. Going from there to execution is like going from the range to the first tee.

6. The book Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella, written by Chris Nashawaty, will be released on Tuesday. ( published this exclusive excerpt.) What’s your favorite scene from the iconic golf flick?

Zak: Does it get any better than the Cinderella story scene? I’m glad to be the first to answer here and get that one out of the way.

Sens: Zak took the words out of my mouth. But there are so many good ones. Chevy Chase’s Ty Webb directing Carl Spackler to the pond instead of the pool ranks up there. Also, any scene involving Spaulding, though maybe it’s just the schadenfreude I get from the lampooning of a hapless, pampered country club kid.

Ritter: Na-na-na-na-na (draino). Na-na-na-na-na (good). Na-na-na-na-na (swish).

Shipnuck: When I was a kid I thought the funniest thing I’d ever seen was the Baby Ruth floating in the pool. I’m not sure I’ve changed my mind.

Wood: My God. Which verse of “Like a Rolling Stone” is Dylan’s best? Of the 20 songs to go to number one, which Beatles tune is my favorite? Shakespeare…the sonnets and plays…discuss. Van Gogh: Starry Night or Irises… Are you mocking me for putting Caddyshack on this level of art? Then I can’t be your friend. They’re all brilliant. ALL the scenes. But if you want to have a good time and change it up, next time you watch it, don’t watch what you’re supposed to be watching. Watch what’s going on in the background. Many scenes have things going on in the background that I’m not sure were planned or just happened, but if you’re like me and you have the film memorized, gift yourself a couple hours or watching the bit players.

Bamberger: … First off, the spelling of the title is perfect and any other spelling would have doomed the movie. Here’s the moment you can take to your deathbed: “So we finish the 18th and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know?’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money. But when you die—on your deathbed—you will receive total consciousness.'”

“So I got that going for me. Which is nice.”