Tiger Woods returns this week. Here are 8 questions we hope he answers

tiger woods smiles in a white hat and blue shirt from a fairway at the masters tournament

Tiger is back, and there's plenty we're hoping to learn.

Getty Images

Tiger Woods is back.


Those are remarkable words in the golf world. Magical words, some might say. Even if his gait is gimpy and his game is rusty, Tiger’s return at the Hero World Challenge remains one of the holiest weeks on the golf calendar. These days, we don’t arrive at the Hero expecting to see major championship form. We sometimes don’t arrive to see golf at all. Instead, we arrive to capture a moment in time — to glimpse into the past, the present and the future.

Indeed, those same things will be on display this week, the week of the latest return. We will see the past when we indulge in the vision of Tiger Woods walking the fairways and greens of a competitive golf tournament — a site that feels at once increasingly rare and eminently familiar. He will look like the old version of the player we know, he will swing like him, and he will wield the same crackling bolt of competitive energy that he has always carried. Of course, he will not be the old version of the player we know. He will be this version, the one we see in the present. This Woods, though familiar, is not the same as that Woods, a man who is no longer invincible nor visible. But we won’t have to look long at his stride to realize that the Tiger Woods we see in the future will not be remembered for his score or his walk today. He will instead be remembered for the things happening beyond the ropes, where Tiger’s voice is suddenly stronger than even his beefy forearms.

Since the last time Woods went away — at the Masters in April — the golf world has changed precipitously around him. The sport is tangibly different now, in many ways the 15-time champ himself helped to shape. Now, for the first time since the subtalar fusion surgery that ended his major championship season in April, Tiger will have the opportunity to speak, to act, to answer. And what do we hope to hear from him? Let’s recap the eight biggest questions below.

1. So…how’s the leg?

A question Tiger is guaranteed to answer as cryptically and uninformatively as possible when he addresses the media for the first time this week. A question he will also answer, in so many words, with his play throughout the week.

The truth is that it’s unreasonable to expect that Woods will ever look spry playing golf again. It is perhaps unreasonable to expect that he’ll be capable of playing four days in a row without finding himself blinded by pain. But he’s certainly hopeful April’s fusion surgery went a long way toward keeping things tolerable. Tolerable could make a considerable difference for a player with a famously superhuman pain threshold and an exceedingly light playing schedule.

But before we can even entertain the thought of Tiger contending again, we need to come to grips with the thought of him playing a tournament through to completion. He’s one for his last four with that, with his only post-car crash major championship finish coming on Sunday at the 2022 Masters.

2. How’s the game?

Another question that’ll be answered by Woods’ play in the Bahamas. You see, the flip side of Woods’ playing schedule (and his injury-forced absences) has been that he is rarely, if ever, given the opportunity to sharpen his game for tournament play. Yes, he’s Tiger Woods, but even Tiger Woods needs live reps to stay competitive.

There is also the question of his golf swing, which underwent its latest transformation in the wake of his 2021 crash. The new move is far more slash than sashay, which is quite alright considering his noticeably chiseled upper body, but it leaves open a few notable weaknesses. Can he avoid the big right miss? Does he look comfortable twisting and coiling through the backswing? Is he capable of contorting his legs to strike a ball above his feet?

Nobody’s expecting to see major championship-caliber short-game or putting this week, but a healthy move that doesn’t result in many visible grimaces feels like a win.

3. …who’s your caddie?

When Woods and longtime caddie/friend/confidant Joe LaCava announced their exceedingly amicable split over the summer so LaCava could carry Patrick Cantlay’s bag, it opened a strange vortex in Tiger Woods World: for the first time in his playing life, he was left without a looper.

That caddie curiosity continues into the week at the Hero, where Woods will enter without a defined partner. One name who could be to watch? Woods’ longtime manager and very close friend, Rob McNamara.

4. What’s going on with the TGL?

Tiger led the charge for a group that rallied some of the biggest stars in golf and influential institutional investors in the world to a techy indoor golf league called the TGL. He helped oversee a media blitz and a PR campaign and signed on advertisers and a TV partner.

And then the bubble burst. Literally. The domed roof behind the league’s Palm Beach stadium collapsed overnight after a sudden power failure, sending the league into a tizzy and eventually resulting in a yearlong delay for launch.

Where do things stand today? How does Tiger — player-owner of the league’s Jupiter Links GC franchise — feel about the delay? We’ll find out shortly.

5. Are we feeling friendly?

We would be remiss to discuss the “past, present and future” of professional golf without discussing the hydrogen bomb that detonated across the sport on June 6 of this year.

On one hand, the merger between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (or PIF) would seem to be good for Tiger, whose legacy remains safe so long as the Tour continues to exist. On the other, Woods’ continued criticisms of LIV Golf, lack of public support for the agreement, and overall lack of public comment on the matter would seem to indicate he feels otherwise.

How does Tiger stand today on the framework agreement with the Saudis? (He was, after all, the first to hint at “sitting down at the table” with the Saudis to forge a path forward at the 150th Open.) How does he feel about the state of the PGA Tour? (He has long been an ardent defender.) How did he feel about Jay Monahan’s handling of the situation? (A later memo on the merger left his feelings on this topic ambiguous.) This is sure to be a topic of conversation.

6. Coup Conversations

The golf world was stunned when Woods filed a signed list of demands to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan in September, setting off the chain of events that resulted in his being installed as a sixth Player Director on the Tour’s all-important policy board, among other structural changes.

At the time, outlets referred to Woods’ referendum as a de facto player coup, seizing back power from the Tour’s executive leadership and placing it back in the hands of the players after being blindsided by Monahan’s agreement with the Saudi PIF. It will be curious to see if Woods pushes back on this perception of the situation, or if he has any further color to offer about the events that preceded it.

Tiger Woods and Joe Lacava at the 2023 masters
Tiger could be without longtime caddie (and close friend) Joe LaCava on the bag this week. Getty Images

7. How do you take your equity?

The latest development in the merger saga has been the emergence of serious private equity interest in the PGA Tour. According to memos sent to membership from Monahan, the Tour is listening to those proposals, vetting out serious candidates, and will bring any potential agreement to Tour players before ratifying.

Such a sale could see a chunk of the company purportedly formed between the PGA Tour and the PIF, PGA Tour Enterprises, sold off to a major PE player for a boatload of cash.

And why is this of interest to Tiger? Beyond his involvement as one of the Tour’s Player Directors, Woods has already partnered with a few of the biggest names tied to potential Tour proposals for the TGL, including Fenway Sports Group’s Tom Werner and billionaire partners Arthur Blank (owner of the Atlanta Falcons) and Steve Cohen (owner of the New York Mets).

Woods’ influence in the game could have a major bearing on any potential Tour partner, and his words at the Hero could lay the groundwork for such an offer.

8. How’s your schedule looking?

Tiger’s schedule remains high-profile information in the golf world, and hints toward potential 2024 starts could set the stage for the season to come. Woods briefly teed it up at his home event, the Genesis Invitational, in February. He could be looking to return again there.

If not, it’ll be interesting to hear if Tiger discusses his next start, at next month’s PNC Championship, alongside his son Charlie.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.