Albany, November 2022.
Tiger Woods’ much awaited return to competition will have to wait a little longer. The 46-year-old, 15-time Major champion, Woods was hoping to play his first competitive round since the 150th Open at St. Andrews at his own event, the Hero World Challenge. However, a foot injury due to ‘plantar fasciitis’ has forced to pull out of the event.
Woods, who co-founded the HWC, has rarely missed the event, which is being sponsored by World’s No. 1 two-wheeler company, Hero MotoCorp, for the eighth year in a row.
Addressing a press conference ahead of the Hero World Challenge at Albany in the Bahamas, Tiger Woods said, “Well, it was a tough decision just because I want to play. I like playing, I like competing, but unfortunately, I can hit the golf ball and hit whatever shot you want, I just can't walk. And so I've had a few setbacks during the year that I still was able to somehow play through, but this one I just can't. I just -- only time can heal this one and stay off my feet and get a lot of treatment done.”
“Well, as I was ramping up and had to walk more, the worse it got. So when you get plantar fasciitis, that's the worst thing you can do is walk, and I was walking more and more and more, trying to get my legs ready for this event, and I just kept making it worse. So had to shut it down and unfortunately, be the host of the event,” he added.
Woods, who was battling through injuries, and recovering from his February 2021 car accident, missed the whole of pandemic-hit 2021 and then made just three starts in 2022.
He made the cut at the Masters; withdrew after being unable to bear pain following three rounds at the PGA Championships and then missed the cut at the Open in Scotland.
Dr Pawan Munjal, Chairman and CEO of Hero MotoCorp, who Woods considers a personal friend, said, “Why just us, the whole golfing world is disappointed at Tiger’s withdrawal. But for me, his personal well-being and the rehab is more important. His mere presence this week as the host, a responsibility, since he co-founded the event, is enough for me. I wish him the very best and hope to see him back in action soon.”
Earlier, in a statement, released through his social media handle, Woods, said, “In preparation and practice for this week's Hero World Challenge, I've developed plantar fasciitis in my right foot, which is making it difficult to walk."
"After consulting with my doctors and trainers, I have decided to withdraw this week and focus on my hosting duties.
"My plan is still to compete in The Match and PNC Championships."
Woods had planned to play the HWC, which is over four rounds and 72 holes with no cut.
He was then due to play “The Match” (December 10) with Rory McIlroy against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth; and finally the 36-hole scramble event, PNC Championship (December 17-18) with his son, Charlie.
The tournament will see European Ryder Cup hopeful, Sepp Straka, who became the first Austrian to win on the PGA Tour this year, take Woods’ place in the 20-man field. With Woods not having played since July 2022, his world ranking had plummeted to 1277. His replacement by Straka, World No. 29, will ironically strengthen in the field in terms of World Rankings points available this week.
The 20-man field event this week includes 15 of the World’s current Top-18 ranked players and 18 of the 23 plus Straka (No. 29) and Kevin Kisner (No. 31). The event includes three of this year's four men's major winners and seven players who have won at least one Major.
Woods is a five-time winner and a five-time runner-up, in the event, which began in 1999. The event has been sponsored by Hero MotoCorp since 2014 and it found its new home in the Bahamas in 2015.
Since the tournament’s inception in 1999, Woods has missed the event only in 2008 and 2009 and then 2015 and 2021. The event was not held in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The field (USA unless mentioned): Scottie Scheffler, Billy Horschel, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Young, Jon Rahm (Spain), SungjaeIm (South Korea), Justin Thomas, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa, Tom Kim, Matt Fitzpatrick (England), Shane Lowry (Ireland), Viktor Hovland (Norway), Corey Conners (Canada), Sam Burns, Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood and Sepp Straka.
All four rounds of the Hero World Challenge will be shown live on Sky Sports, with coverage from 6pm over the first two rounds before five hours of play from 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday.