MIAMI: Tiger Woods returns to competitive golf after a five-month layoff alongside top-ranked Rory McIlroy against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth on Saturday in The Match, a 12-hole made-for-television event.
Woods skipped last week's Hero World Challenge, an invitational event he hosts in the Bahamas, due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
But 15-time major winner Woods, whose 82 PGA Tour triumphs match Sam Snead for the all-time record, will partner with four-time major winner McIlroy in the night event under lights at Pelican Golf Club in suburban Tampa, Florida.
“I can tell you one thing,“ Woods said. “I have the number one player on my team so I’m good.”
Woods has been limited by severe leg injuries suffered in a February 2021 car accident. He returned at this year's Masters and walked all 72 holes but withdrew from the PGA Championship in May after three rounds with leg pain and missed the cut in July's British Open at St. Andrews in his most recent start.
Woods, who turns 47 on December 30, said his foot injury does not impact his swing but hinders his ability to walk without pain. All four players will use golf carts in Saturday's affair.
“I can hit golf balls,“ Woods said. “It’s just hard getting from point A to point B so (carting) will certainly help a lot,“ Woods said.
Spieth, a three-time major winner, and Thomas, who won his second major title at this year's PGA Championship, are oddsmakers' favorites. They went 4-0 together at the Presidents Cup in September and have a combined 8-2 mark in Ryder and Presidents Cup matches.
But McIlroy comes off victories at the Tour Championship in August and the CJ Cup in October and he likes his chances with Woods on his side, even nursing an injury.
“He’s probably the best iron player that has ever lived... probably the best golfer that has ever lived period,“ McIlroy said.
“If he can just get it out in the fairway and get some looks in the fairway, I think we’re going to have a really good chance.”
The Match, which will use a best-ball format, serves as a charity fundraiser for Hurricane Ian relief, helping those struck by the severe storm in the area earlier this year.
Woods is also planning to play next week alongside his son Charlie in the PNC Championship at Orlando. - AFP