It’s a testament to his accomplishments and popularity that Tiger Woods can make news by saying and doing nothing. Fans of the all-time PGA Tour great eat up every detail about him, and the latest report is undoubtedly difficult for them to digest.
A multi-time champion in a four-decade playing career who knows Woods well says his friend’s return to competitive golf is probably farther away than those fans anticipated.
Tiger Woods’ PNC Championship appearance offered fans a glimmer of hope
The PNC Championship has become a December staple of the unofficial PGA schedule as a consequence of its big names and television-friendly format featuring fathers and sons teaming up in a scramble format. It’s not the U.S. Open, but it’s also not a bunch of 4-handicaps slogging around an executive course for 36 holes.
Last month, John Daly and his son, John Daly II, finished at 27-under-par for two rounds to beat Tiger Woods and his son, Charlie, by two strokes. The teams each fired 57s in the final round, which undoubtedly kept viewers hooked.
The Dalys earned $200,000 for their victory against a field that included father-and-son teams headed by Justin Thomas, Lee Trevino, and Gary Player. Still, Tiger Woods’ first competitive golf action since before his February 2021 accident was the story of the weekend.
Though he competed with the help of a cart, Woods’ appearance gave fans hope that he might rejoin the PGA Tour sooner rather than later.
A Tiger Woods confidant delivers an update bound to disappoint PGA fans
Being 46 years old would ordinarily be the hurdle holding golfers back from competing successfully against the best. That was Jack Nicklaus’ age when he famously won The Masters Tournament in 1986, but victories in PGA Tour events since by older golfers have been few and far between.
Tiger Woods turned 46 in December. Even with his myriad back and leg injuries, though, age isn’t what is holding him back now. According to former PGA competitor John Cook, Woods will not return to competitive golf against the world’s best until he can meet his own high standards.
“He’s never been a ‘show up’ guy if his game isn’t ready for prime time,” Cook said, according to The Golf Channel. “[But] I see it happening at some point otherwise he wouldn’t be testing a ball, shaping shots on the practice tee, working on a new driver that he likes. I think there’s a motive to that.”
That’s the good news for Woods’ fans. The bad news is that Cook doesn’t anticipate the winner of 15 grand slam events taking on Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas in 2022.
“I don’t see it in the next 12 months. I think next time we see him will be (the 2022 PNC Championship). … I don’t think his body will be physically ready. He can’t train the way he’s going to want to train.”John Cook
PGA Tour champion John Cook’s insight matters
John Cook played his first U.S. Open in 1977, finished in the top 10 in golf’s majors seven times, and won 11 times on the PGA Tour and 10 more on the Champions Tour.
Though Cook, 64, can still swing a club, he’s better known these days as an analyst for The Golf Channel. The combination of being a longtime playing pro and covering the sport as a member of the media keeps Cook in touch with many top golfers, and that includes Tiger Woods.
Cook spent some time with Woods, a competitor he has known for years, at the PNC Championship last month and heard a blunt evaluation straight from the source.
“Talking to him, he was pretty open and honest,” Cook said. “He said he was exhausted. He saw enough good stuff with his short clubs and his feel, but the long irons were falling out of the sky. But that was just from some mishits. But he said, ‘I’ll get that.’”
Woods can’t really tackle that until he’s strong enough to both play 72 holes over four consecutive afternoons and spend his usual time on the practice tee and the fitness center each day.
That’s the source of Cook’s pessimism about a return to the 2022 PGA Tour. But with Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors still on his mind, don’t question for a moment whether Woods will be teeing it up at Augusta in 2023.