Tiger Woods: Caddie Joe LaCava discusses potential schedule and return ahead of The Masters

Woods has dropped outside the world’s top 1,000 after making just three competitive starts in the past 20 months due to injury; former world No 1 missed the cut in The Open at St Andrews

Tiger Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava is hoping that the former world No 1 will be able to tee it up in “three or four tournaments” before his return to The Masters next April.

Woods has made just three competitive appearances since suffering career-threatening injuries in last February’s car crash, finishing in 47th-place on his return to action at The Masters in April before making a mid-tournament withdrawal from the PGA Championship a month later.

The former world No 1 skipped the US Open last month to be ready for “at least one more run at a high level” around the historic Old Course at The 150th Open, where he struggled to a missed cut after rounds of 78 and 75 at St Andrews.

An emotional Woods denied rumours of retirement after his early exit but insisted he had “nothing planned” when asked about his future schedule, although his caddie believes the 15-time major champion may still tee it up in a tournament before the end of the year.

“I’m hoping that he will play maybe in December at the Hero [World Challenge] and the Father-Son [PNC Championship] and maybe the Genesis [Invitational],” LaCava told the Dan Patrick Show. “I’m still hoping he’ll play three, maybe four tournaments before The Masters.

“I won’t do much. I’ll do the same thing and say to Tiger ‘if you’re starting to feel better maybe October, November, maybe I’ll come down for a couple of weeks, we’ll hang out. We don’t have to play every day, we don’t have to practice every day, I’ll just be there and give you a little motivation’.

“We’ll play and practice a little bit here and there, and maybe get him ready for the Hero and get ready for 2023 and get him ready in any respect that he needs.”

There are just two regular events in the PGA Tour season and Woods is languishing outside the top 200 in the FedExCup standings, having been limited to his three major appearances this season, so a missed cut at The Open brought an early end to another injury-affected campaign.

“It’s one of those things where we just never got anything going the first day,” LaCava said about the early exit at St Andrews. “It wasn’t like he played poorly. The putting just didn’t seem to be there and the short game wasn’t quite there.

“I think he’s working so hard to get stronger and healthier. He’s working on his long game and working on his endurance and I just think the short game has been neglected a little bit at this point and that showed over there.”

Woods has traditionally played a limited autumn schedule on the PGA Tour, although one possible return could be to the Zozo Championship in October and the tournament where he claimed his record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour title back in 2019.

The likely option is the Hero World Challenge in December, as LaCava mentioned, which is a limited-field event Woods hosts through his foundation in the Bahamas and a venue where he made comebacks from injury at in both 2016 and 2017.

One event where Woods will almost certainly tee it up is the PNC Championship alongside his son, Charlie, having loved his debut in the father-son contest back in 2020 and making the tournament his eagerly awaited TV return to action last December.

Woods played using a cart on his way to a runner-up finish behind Team Daly and would be able to do so again in the 36-hole event later this year, limiting the physical strain, with Woods likely to relish the opportunity to compete with his son once again.

The full PGA Tour schedule for the 2022-23 campaign has yet to be released, but there are already several events pencilled in during the early part of the year where Woods has enjoyed plenty of success during his career.

The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines – an event he has won seven times and the venue of his most recent US Open title in 2018 – was a previous starting point of Woods’ season, while the Genesis Invitational in February is another regular stop for Woods and hosted by his foundation.

The cold winter mornings in California may not offer instant appeal to a player who has undergone back surgery multiple times, so the Florida swing – in his home state – may offer a better chance of seeing Woods ahead of the opening men’s major of the year.

Woods is an eight-time winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and is also eligible to tee it up at TPC Sawgrass for The Players, the PGA Tour’s flagship event, while there be other opportunities for Woods to tee it up in the lead-up to Augusta.

After so long away from the game and many injury-plagued years, any opportunity to see Woods back in action is one to be relished. Whenever we see Woods’ return to tournament golf, this year or next, we will once again watch on with interest.

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