Tiger may return at Safeway Open

CARMEL, Ind. – Out of golf for more than a year, Tiger Woods said Wednesday he hopes to play the first event of the PGA Tour season next month and could play as much as twice more before the end of the year.

Woods said if his rehabilitation from back surgeries keeps going well, he would play the Safeway Open in Napa, California, on Oct. 13-16.

“My rehabilitation is to the point where I’m comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do,” Woods said in a surprise announcement on his website . “Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go.”

Woods last played on Aug. 23, 2015, at the Wyndham Championship. Two shots out of the lead going into the final round, he closed with a 70 and tied for 10th. A month later, he announced he had another operation on his back. Then, Woods had a third back surgery in October.

He missed all four majors for the first time in his career.

Jack Nicklaus tweeted to Woods that “it’s great to see you back to see you back and in good health. You’ve done so much for the game and it’s better with you playing.”

The Safeway Open is the opening event of the wraparound PGA Tour season held at Silverado. Woods also said he intends to play in the Turkish Airlines Open the first weekend in November and his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas the first week of December, where he would be eligible for the 18-man field as the tournament host.

He also said he would take part in his Tiger Woods Invitational, a charity event for his foundation, Oct. 10-11 on the Monterey Peninsula.

“It was difficult missing tournaments that are important to me, but this time I was smart about my recovery and didn’t rush it,” Woods said.

The announcement was a swift departure from the few public appearances this year in which Woods has said he planned to return but did not have a timetable.

Now he does.

“He needs to get back out here,” U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson said. “The tour needs him, and I want to see him playing well again. He’s not going to come back unless he’s ready, so I feel like he’ll play well. Winning? I don’t see it right away. But he’s on a different level than anyone else.”

Rory McIlroy said he knew Woods was close based on a conversation with Woods’ agent at the British Open this year. He said the PGA Tour sent out an alert to players on their mobile phones, which McIlroy checked at the end of his pro-am round at the BMW Championship.