NASSAU, Bahamas -- Tiger Woods is returning to competitive golf for the first time in nearly eight months when he tees it up at the Hero World Challenge on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the 15-time major champion met with reporters for the first time since his news conference at the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in April.
Much has happened on the PGA Tour since then, including its stunning framework agreement with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour on June 6.
Woods tackled myriad topics during a news conference in the Bahamas on Tuesday, including his confidence in PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, the future ecosystem in the game and his decision to join the PGA Tour's policy board.
Q: Tiger, when did you decide that you were going to be able to play? What's the buildup been like?
Woods: As far as the commitment to playing, probably after I caddied with [my son] Charlie and was able to recover each and every day like that. I was still lifting and still doing a bunch of other things too alongside of that, so in conjunction with that and during part of it, all my beach walks at home, just the accumulation, how could I recover, could I keep progressing at the same time, right? I was hitting golf balls a lot, trying to get Charlie ready for the event. And then post-event I started feeling, you know what, I can probably do, so why not? Talked to the committee, and a committee of one was able to give me a spot.
Q: How concerned are you about walking 90 holes?
Woods: I'm not concerned at all about walking it. It's more, as I said, I don't have any of the ankle pain that I had with the hardware that's been placed in my foot, that's all gone. The other parts of my body, my knee hurts, my back. The forces go somewhere else. Just like when I had my back fused, the forces have to go somewhere. So it's up the chain. As I said, I'm just as curious as all of you with what's going to happen. I haven't done this in a while.
Q: Just curious, will that surgery help your golf [in the] long run or does it present more challenges even given what you had done?
Woods: I would say that the procedures I've had done the last couple years, I've had a number of them, and at some point in time I was going to have to get my ankle replaced or fused. That timetable was sped up. They weren't expecting me to put as many forces into that ankle as when I hit drivers, and so I think the doctors were surprised by that. And the ankle just went, it was bone-on-bone and that's why you saw me limping and not feeling very good. The only way to fix that was either to get it replaced or fused, and we chose the fusion, the subtalar fusion and put hardware in there. The next part's the hard part; it's six months of doing nothing. That's the hard part. The first couple months were really rough, but unfortunately I've had experience. I've gone through it before and I'm here on the good side now.
Q: This isn't the first time you've made a comeback at the Hero World Challenge. What is it about this tournament that you choose this as your comeback platform so often?
Woods: Well, I think the timing of the event with the injuries that I've had, and I think just the way the event has been with the smaller field size. The fact that it's at the end of the year, which sets me up for expectations going into the following year. It's a nice landing spot. Also a good springboard into the following year, and my foundation benefits from it. So there's so many positives that come about because of my ability to be able to play in the event. So I've found this as a nice little spot to kind of turn the page and then move on to the next chapter or into the next year.
Q: What was your reaction to the June 6 framework announcement?
Woods: Well, going back to that, I would say that my reaction was surprised, as I'm sure a lot of the players were taken back by it, by what happened. So quickly without any input or any information about it, it was just thrown out there. I was very surprised that the process was what it was. We were very frustrated with what happened and we took steps going forward to ensure that we were not going to be left out of the process like we were. So part of that process was putting me on the board and accepting that position.
Q: Tiger, Jay Monahan's taken a lot of heat since June 6. What's your assessment of the job he's done since then?
Woods: I think Jay has been a part of the direction, he understands what happened prior to that can't happen again and won't happen again, not with the players that are involved and not with the player directors having the role that we have.
Q: Do you enjoy the part of being on the policy board and in those kinds of meetings?
Woods: Well, I enjoy the fact that I'm able to make an impact differently than just hitting a golf ball. I made an impact on the PGA Tour for a number of years hitting a golf ball and doing that. I can have, I think, a lasting impact by doing what I'm doing, by being on the board and being a part of the future of the PGA Tour.
Q: What are the emotions that drove you to be on the policy board?
Woods: I think the overall emotion is we can't let that happen again. How we do that is having six player directors, so we control the board and we control what we're going to do. We're not going to have what transpired in a few months without our involvement again.
Q: Were you surprised that Rory decided to move off the board?
Woods: I totally understand why Rory made that decision. We put a lot of effort and time into the Delaware meeting and getting everyone aligned for that. Going from there and the next couple years, just the involvement or the conflict within golf and then his participation at the highest level. He was in contention in almost every tournament he played and he was the spokesman at the same time. So that was very difficult on him personally and I totally understand it.
Q: As part of the board, are you pleased now with the direction of the tour since you're part of the decision-making process?
Woods: I'm pleased at the process and how it's evolved. Also frustrated in some of the slowness and the governance change that we want to have happen. And Dec. 31 is coming up very quickly, so there's the timetable there that we would like to implement some of these changes that have not taken place. The guys, all the player directors have spent so many hours and worked tireless hours to make sure that we have the best deal for all the players that are involved, the entire PGA Tour.
Q: Tiger, you mentioned that the deadline is coming up. From your perspective, how optimistic do you feel like this agreement can come together before the deadline?
Woods: One thing, all the parties are talking and we're aggressively working on trying to get a deal done. We're all trying to make sure that the process is better, too, as well. So the implementation of governance is one of the main topics, [and] getting the deal done, but making sure it's done the right way.
Q: The new company, PGA Tour Enterprises, what's being discussed is significant sums of investment, no matter where it's coming from, whether it's PIF, private equity, what have you. Do you have an opinion on what you would like to see that become?
Woods: Everyone involved wants a return, that's just part of doing deals. But we have to protect the integrity of our tour and what that looks like and what that stands for going forward. Trying to figure all that out in the past few months has been a very difficult task. But yes, there are a lot of different options, a lot of different parts that are moving, trying to get a deal done, whether it's from all different types of money, what that looks like. But we have to protect what the Tour is for the players.
Q: You touched on governance changes. Can you tell us what you think has to change?
Woods: As long as a player has input and we're able to make faster decisions and the board recognizes that, I think that is one of the key things that all the player directors have really focused on. I think the entire board has been very accepting of that and we would just like to make the process faster.
Q: Tiger, do you have a sense of what the professional golf landscape will look like in a year or two years, or does it feel as murky to you on the inside of the process as it does to us on the outside?
Woods: To answer that question, I would say that the answer is murky. I would have to say there's a lot of moving parts on how we're going to play. Whether it's here on the PGA Tour or it's merging, or team golf. There's a lot of different aspects that are being thrown out there all at once, and we are trying to figure all that out and what is the best solution for all parties and best solution for all the players that are involved.
Q: What is your opinion on team golf's place in the future ecosystem?
Woods: I think there is a way in which we can all benefit from team golf. It's just how do we do it? We're just trying to figure out that process now. We've been doing it for months, trying to figure out how that all works. What does that landscape even look like, and where do we play and what impact does it have on our PGA Tour schedule? I think that's something that we have focused on and we don't take lightly.
Q: As far as the landscape goes, is there a path back to the PGA Tour for the players who joined the LIV Golf League? If so, what would that look like?
Woods: As far as a pathway, we're still working on that. That's part of the deal we're working through is trying to find a path, whatever that looks like. There's so many different scenarios. That's why I said there's a lot of sleepless hours trying to figure that out, a lot of participation from the players and what does that look like?
Q: TGL recently had to delay its start because of damage to the arena in South Florida. You're obviously a part of that. Just your thoughts on how that affects the league and just moving forward?
Woods: I think it was moving very quickly, and I think we can take advantage of [the] time delay. I think that we can do it right, and I think all the parties that are involved really feel that this is going to be the best thing for it. There's so many partners, so many people that are involved in this league that have had so much brand experience and they want to get it right. They have gotten it right, they're billionaires. I think that if we're able to capture that I think going into '25, I think that it will be positive for all of us.
Q: Whether it be sharing knowledge with younger players about Augusta or TGL or now the tour board, how much have you kind of mentally taken on that role of being a senior presence in the game of golf?
Woods: Don't say senior, I'm not there yet. I've got a couple more years. Honestly, that part of the transition is I think a natural progression that golfers have. When you come out in your 20s, you're young and you're impressionable and you ask questions. Then as you get older you have your little run, and towards the end you want to pass on all that knowledge to others.
That's how the game of golf has grown. That's what we have all learned from. I didn't discover any of this stuff. This is all stuff I've asked players throughout the years, and I've gotten so much of my direction from asking questions. I've had some of the best players of all time -- unfortunately, a lot of them aren't here -- but just to be able to pick their brains, I think that's what the game of golf's all about.
Q: You're obviously busy at the moment, but your name has already been mentioned as a possible captain for the 2025 U.S. Ryder Cup team. What are your thoughts on that at the moment?
Woods: Right now, there's too much at stake with our tour to think about a Ryder Cup right now. We have to get this done and we have to be focused on this right now. The players and everyone involved understands that this is an issue we need to focus on.
Q: You have a good relationship with tennis great Rafa Nadal, who is coming back in 2024. You did it before and you are trying to do it again. But how do you describe the process for an athlete like Rafa or you? You have won everything and keep the same motivation and try to get it again?
Woods: Well, I think what Rafa's, what he's done is extraordinary. I mean, he won the Australian Open on a broken foot. The guy's beyond tough and beyond competitive. He knows that Father Time is here. Every athlete faces it. Although some sports it happens faster than others, and unfortunately just like every sport, you get aged out. I don't want to see him go. I never wanted to see [Roger Federer] go, but that's what happened. We should all enjoy watching him compete and watching him play and what he's meant to the game. What he's meant to all of us. Just to see the passion of how he plays and why he plays.
Q: Obviously, getting the ankle surgery was a quality of life thing for you. But what motivated the golf side to continue and push yourself to continue to play?
Woods: I love competing. I love playing. I miss being out here with the guys. I miss the camaraderie and the fraternity-like atmosphere out here and the overall banter. But what drives me is I love to compete. There will come a point in time -- I haven't come around to it fully yet -- that I won't be able to win again. When that day comes, I'll walk. Well, now I can walk. I won't say run away, but I'm going to walk away.