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Tiger Woods As a Part-Time Player? Isn't He Already?

Rory McIlroy says Woods' decision to try — if he's physically able — and play sparingly on Tour is smart, but points out that's pretty much what he's been doing.
Tiger Woods has averaged fewer than 10 starts a year for the past dozen seasons.

Tiger Woods has averaged fewer than 10 starts a year for the past dozen seasons.

The big news to come out of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas this week, at least to this point, concerns Tiger Woods. That is, he hopes to continue playing competitive golf at some point. But, henceforth, he doesn’t foresee playing full time on the PGA Tour.

Woods communicated as much during a press conference on Tuesday, his first public face time since the horrific car crash last February. But was it really news?

“I mean, I don’t feel like he’s played full time on the PGA Tour since 2013, really,” Rory McIlroy said. “So it shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone to hear that.”

Leave it to the Irish to cut to the quick. The 32-year-old McIlroy wasn’t taking issue with what Woods had to say, or with the fact that his time on the competitive trail might be limited. Rather, he called such an approach “smart.” Makes total sense.

McIlroy was simply pointing out that throughout his career Woods has made it clear that he focuses most of his attention on the four major championships. He was won them 15 times. And when you’ve won 82 PGA Tour events overall, when you’ve collected big checks that often, you have the luxury of cherry-picking your schedule.

Moreover, Woods has been a pin cushion for incidents and accidents and the patron saint of back surgery. Now, his body has more pins and screws than Home Depot. Add it all together, deduct the rehab time and — to McIlroy’s point — it makes for an irregular schedule.

For instance, while players like McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau or Jordan Spieth have averaged more than 20 events in recent seasons — not counting the pandemic pinched 2020 schedule — Woods hasn't played 20 events in a season since 2005.

Over the past 12 years, he has averaged fewer than 10 events and over one two-year period — 2016-17 — he played once.

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In short, Tiger Woods has been an occasional visitor on the professional golf landscape for many years. At the end of this month, he will turn 46 years old. Meanwhile, he is rehabilitating injuries that include significant reconstruction of his right leg and ankle. Of course, that’s to say nothing of his back, which has absorbed five surgical procedures.

So, no one — not sponsors, not fans, not media, not fellow players — should be the least bit surprised to hear that Woods’ future plans do not include a busy PGA Tour schedule. Let’s face it, Captain Obvious could have been the pool reporter for that press conference.

At the same time, all of the aforementioned parties will be happy to see Woods back in any capacity.

“He’s been through the wars, put his body through a lot and yeah, I think if I were him at this point, I’d have no ambition to play a full-time schedule,” added McIlroy, who makes the Hero World Challenge his 23rd start of the 2021 calendar, which includes four European Tour events.

“You play the events you want to play, whatever gets your juices flowing,” he added. “For him, that’s the majors and maybe a couple of other events a year — and that’s it.

“I mean it’s smart to do that. As I said, he hasn’t really played a full schedule for a while. It just will be nice to see him back on the golf course again.”

Xander Schauffele, who is teeing it up this week for the 24th time since last September, agreed.

“I just saw him and told him he’s the most stubborn person I know,” said the 24-year old Schauffele. “He’s using this situation for motivation to try to come back and win, and be that guy. Because he’s always been that guy.

“I hope he does it, hopefully not on my watch. But I think it’s really good for the game and I think it’s really cool that he’s not really stepping away.”