While the official PGA TOUR season ended at the RSM Classic two weeks ago, the December calendar still brings plenty of intrigue leading into next season’s January opener in Hawaii.
The reason behind that intrigue centers on the return of one man: Tiger Woods. The annual event hosted by Woods has also served as a popular spot for him to return following an injury – and that scenario will again play out this year.
Joining Woods will be 19 other world-class players, including two-time defending champion Viktor Hovland, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler, and a host of other big names.
Last year’s event looked incredibly similar to the 2021 edition, as Hovland again took home the title, with Scheffler finishing second. The Norwegian joined Woods as the only men to win back-to-back titles in the 23-year history of the event. Hovland certainly made things interesting on the final hole of the event, finding the water from a fairway bunker 220 yards away on his approach. That gave Scheffler some hope, but Hovland walked away with a bogey and kept his lead for the victory.
2022: Viktor Hovland 2021: Viktor Hovland 2020: Canceled 2019: Henrik Stenson 2018: Jon Rahm 2017: Rickie Fowler 2016: Hideki Matsuyama
Reasons to watch
The last time we saw Woods playing golf was during a rain-soaked third round at Augusta in April. The weather conditions were absolutely dreadful and eventually forced him out due to extreme pain in his leg. Since then, he’s had another fusion surgery and insists there’s absolutely no pain in his ankle. He recently walked 72 holes as a caddie for his son Charlie during a junior tournament and decided to enter the Hero shortly afterward. While he’ll certainly be rusty, having Woods back in action is a huge win for the TOUR and golf fans around the world.
Did we mention Tiger?
What can be expected of Tiger in his return is anybody’s guess. This week will be just the sixth 72-hole stroke-play event he’s played since his 2021 car accident, and he’s only played all four rounds twice in that span. However, he painted the most optimistic picture we’ve heard from him since the accident on Tuesday, saying his best-case scenario is “one tournament a month” for the 2024 season. In previous returns from injury at the Hero, Woods has made as many birdies as anybody in the field but too many sloppy bogeys to contend. Expect that to be the case again this year as he looks to tighten up his form.
Zalatoris also returns
In what might be the most under-the-radar return of all time, Will Zalatoris is also making his comeback to the PGA TOUR this week at Albany. Zalatoris dealt with a back injury toward the end of the 2022 season and was forced to withdraw from the Masters in April once his pain returned. He eventually underwent a season-ending microdiscectomy – a surgery Woods has also had. Zalatoris was a mainstay on leaderboards at majors before the injury, so it’ll be interesting to see how sharp his game is in the Bahamas.
Viktor Hovland +375 Scottie Scheffler +500 Collin Morikawa +800 Max Homa +800 Justin Thomas +1,400 Cameron Young +1,600 Matthew Fitzpatrick +1,600 Rickie Fowler +2,200 Tony Finau +2,200 Jordan Spieth +2,500 Sam Burns +2,500 Wyndham Clark +2,500 Will Zalatoris +2,800 Justin Rose +3,000 Keegan Bradley +3,000 Sepp Straka +3,000 Brian Harman +3,300 Jason Day +3,500 Tiger Woods +5,000 Lucas Glover +6,000