Tiger Woods returned to the top 50 of the world rankings for the first time since 2014 this week, and his comeback is about to shift into a higher gear.
Woods, whose jump to No. 50 got him into the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week, is now planning to play in five of the next six tournaments, including next week’s PGA Championship in St. Louis.
The 42-year-old — who hasn’t competed in three consecutive weeks in more than five years and is returning from his fourth back surgery — told reporters Wednesday that he has been planning for the busier schedule since he realized his body could handle it a few months ago.
“Early part of the summer, (I realized) if I played well, this is what I was going to have to endure, coming with a pretty big schedule at the very end,” Woods said. “We built a pretty good physical game plan for it. My training schedule, how to build myself, my recovery breaks — even had to factor in how much I can practice, just to make sure I’m physically fit enough to get through this section.
“But I also want to play well and win tournaments through this. I feel like my body is good. I need to keep it that way. I still need to train really hard and limit how much I do practice, the wear and tear on the body, because I’m going to be putting it through its paces in tournament play, which as we all know, we hit the ball harder in tournaments than we do in practice.”
The PGA Tour confirmed Tuesday that Woods committed to play in the first two events of the FedExCup playoffs at the end of August, the first time he will do so since 2013, and will very likely qualify for the third. He is currently 47th in the FedExCup standings.
This week, Woods will attempt to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational for the ninth time. The most recent of those victories was also the last time Woods won a tournament, back in 2013. He hasn’t been eligible to play in an WGC event since slipping outside the top-50 in the world rankings in 2015, but his climb back up the charts this year has been steady.
“I made some tweaks and some changes in my game and it paid off,” Woods said. “This entire year has been one that I’ve been evolving and changing a few things.”
On Wednesday, Woods also reflected on being in contention at the British Open at Carnoustie last month, where he finished in a tie for sixth after holding the lead briefly during the final round.
“As I said, it was going to sting for a while, and it certainly does because I had a great chance at it,” he said. “I played myself into a great position ... My game plan played myself right into the lead. So that part I was very positive about. But just the way I made a couple of mistakes there at 11 and 12 ended up costing me the tournament.”
Woods is now looking to keep progressing in hopes of qualifying for the United States Ryder Cup team. He’ll play in the Northern Trust Aug. 23-26 and the Dell Technologies Championship Aug. 29-Sept. 3, but at No. 20 in the U.S. team standings, Woods is unlikely to nab one of the top eight spots on points, which are determeined following the PGA Championship.
Three additional spots will be named by captain Jim Furyk following the Dell tournament, with the final spot scheduled to be announced after the BMW Championship, slated to be completed on Sept. 9.
Asked how he, as vice captain, might pitch himself to Furyk as a player right now, Woods replied with a big smile, “What would be the word? Trending.”
—Field Level Media