Tiger Woods said Tuesday he is playing his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas the first week of December, which would be his first competition in more than 15 months if he follows through with it.
Woods left himself open to doubt by entering the Safeway Open last month, only to pull out three days later when he said his game was not ready.
“I am excited to make my return at the Hero World Challenge at Albany and play in this terrific tournament,” he said in a news release that announced the 18-man field for the unofficial tournament that awards world ranking points but is not part of any tour.
Woods is the tournament host of a holiday event that began in 1999. He is a five-time winner, all of those victories coming at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, before the tournament moved to Isleworth in Florida and then to the Bahamas.
Woods, now at No. 831 in the world ranking, last played in the Wyndham Championship in August 2015 when he tied for 10th. He had two back surgeries over the next few months and has said he would not return until fully healthy.
He initially said in early September that he planned to play the Safeway Open and Turkish Airlines Open. Woods withdrew on the Monday before the Safeway Open, saying his health was good and his body felt strong but that “my game is vulnerable and not where it needed to be.”
He also pulled out of Turkey.
The Hero World Challenge features players from the top 50 in the world, with an exception made for Woods as the tournament host. The 16 qualifiers came from the top 25 in the world ranking that was published the week after the Tour Championship.
The lone sponsor exemption was given to Zach Johnson, who won the event in its last year at Sherwood by holing a shot for par from the drop area on the 18th hole to force a playoff that he won against Woods.
The tournament will be missing at least the top two players in the world – Jason Day, who is taking the rest of the year off to rest his back, and Rory McIlroy.
Still to be determined is whether U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson plays.
Johnson, who is No. 3 in the world, will be in the Philippines on Tuesday of the tournament week (Nov. 29) for an exhibition with McIlroy. He would have to fly straight from there to Los Angeles and then the Bahamas, arriving in Nassau on Wednesday morning in time for the pro-am. His manager said Johnson has not decided if he will try to play.
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