Table of Contents
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
TAKING STOCK OF TIGER AT 47
On December 30th Tiger Woods will turn 47, and it’s safe to say his 40’s have not gone how he intended on or off the course. Had the script been re-written in fairytale mode, Woods would be at or surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major championships by now. He would be at full capacity physically and would likely still outgunning Rory, JT, and Rahm with regularity, walking effortlessly to 3-5 victories a season and at a Tom Brady-like “second peak” in the twilight years of his career.
Or…is the script that actually played out indeed the greatest story of them all to be told? Through years of adversity, arrest, rehab, injuries, and personal life difficulties, Tiger persevered like maybe no one else could have, and even willed his way back into Major championship form with a stunning and emotional Masters victory in 2019. However you look at it, Tiger is and always has been the needle in the game, even as he heads toward 50 years old. Now as Tiger yet again builds his body back up into some sort of playing shape for 2023, let’s dive into what’s been the last year for Team Tiger, and what’s next.
2022 IN REVIEW – LEARNING TO WALK…LITERALLY
The year arrived with hope as Tiger’s post-accident rehab had been widely seen as successful. While Tiger did recover enough to be in playing and swinging shape, what we all learned in 2022 was that the permanent damage sustained to his legs will forever affect his durability and put a wild card into his day-to-day health from here forward. In short, he’ll never move the same way again. At age 47 that just adds to the uncertainty of how you’re able to perform on the course, and it showed early in his brief season. Without question, his most heroic and impressive effort was at Augusta, where he willed his way to a made cut, and finished all four days (but not without pain). I’m still in awe that he made it up and down the hills of Augusta National, but it may have been at a cost.
From there, it was clear that Tiger was only eyeing major championships and the occasional pro-am events on his 2022 calendar. His PGA Championship performance included a third-round WD after the right leg pain became too much to play. From there, he ceremonially teed it up at the 150th edition of The Open at St. Andrews and missed out on the weekend as well. Another setback in the fall of 2022 while rehabbing a little too aggressively, and delayed more action on the course. He did make his December cameos at “The Match” and the PNC Championship with his son Charlie, but both were riding a golf cart the entire way. He showed decent form but dropped his most famous quote of 2022 that sums up the agony perfectly “I can hit all the shots but I can’t walk 18 holes.”
TIGER’S 2023 PLAYING SCHEDULE
Conjuring up a solidified schedule for Tiger in 2023 will probably never happen even for his closest of allies, but we can optimistically speculate that he will have an interest in competing in the four major championships, and potentially a more regular tour stop with his affiliations in place. The issue is that most of those non-major events are early in the calendar on the west coast swing (Torrey Pines, Riviera). Based on his current condition, anything pre-Masters is a long shot at best. Could The Memorial at Jack’s place be a spot for a healthy Tiger to play between two majors? As I look at his current gimp and what’s on the schedule, it’s hard for me to picture him at more than 5 events in 2023. If he does eclipse that mark, it will be done with a revitalized right leg in the second half of the year,
Now that the playing schedule is lightning up by default for Tiger, it certainly has allowed him to continue to grow his own empire. Apart from his largely successful Tiger Woods Foundation for the youth, he’s leading the charge in bringing technology and futuristic viewing to the modern game of golf. His cleverly named TMRW venture with Rory McIlroy is going after all angles of expanding the reach and audience of the game, and Tiger is all the way in on the “Stadium Series” set to launch in 2024. Add in his Popstroke venture with TGR design, the constant expansion of his golf course design and a little job called fatherhood and you can see he’s still being pulled in every direction. All of these ventures have to have him wondering how much longer competitive golf is on his radar.
TIGER AND THE MAJORS: THE QUEST FOR 18
We’ll start off with some realism – this time around, based on current health and condition it ain’t happening. I never count out Tiger Woods, but I think even he might tell you to hold off on betting on him until 2024 at Augusta. I hope I’m wrong.
It’s being played at Oak Hill – a course Tiger has always applauded and called “tough, but fair.” It’s a relatively flat walk and with a May timeline, this should be on every Tiger fan’s radar.
Brand new venue in Los Angeles Country Club, but I’m willing to bet Tiger has teed it up there at least a few times in private. Now the world sees this gem for our National Championship. Imagine a Cali “kid” like Tiger hoisting the trophy?
Tiger won one of his Open titles at Liverpool in 2006, this year’s host course. The good vibes will be there and this was the scene of one of his more emotional major championship victories of his career. This would be my second pick for a spot where he could contend, if healthy.
If there’s one major Tiger would win in 2023 it would be the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, with The Open at Royal Liverpool being a close second.
If he came back to the PGA Tour really early, it would be at Torrey Pines or Riviera on the west coast swing, or he’ll meet me in Austin at the Dell Match Play as his one pre-Masters primer event.
If you’re pessimistic about the Big Cat in 2023, the prediction is he plays 3 or 4 majors and is in just as much if not MORE pain than in 2022, a sad reality of father time.
If you’re optimistic about the Big Cat in 2023, you’ll have him playing in close to 7-8 events and qualifying for the FedEx Cup on those performances alone…maybe a top 10 in a major? Don’t let him get hot!