Stewart Cink admits it’s difficult to extract much information from Tiger Woods.
But the two met early week at the World Wide Technology Championship – contested at Cabo’s Woods-designed El Cardonal at Diamante – and Woods told Cink that he has started practicing.
“He said that he’s started practicing, which I think is a great sign,” Cink told Golf Channel’s George Savaricas. “I don’t know what he’s practicing for, but he said he started practicing, so that means he’s in ‘go mode’ for something.”
Amid speculation regarding when or if Woods will return to competition after his latest surgery, and Woods away from the public eye of late, this offers a clue.
Woods hasn’t competed since undergoing ankle surgery in late April, shortly after withdrawing from the Masters during the third round due to plantar fasciitis. The 82-time TOUR winner was seen chipping at Liberty National in September, and a video was captured of Woods hitting balls at The Hay, the short course Woods designed at Pebble Beach, during the TGR Jr. Invitational in October. Woods was spotted early week at the World Wide Technology Championship as well; he observed from a golf cart as Michael Block gave a lesson to a First Tee participant. Woods then limped into the back of a white SUV; his ability to walk a golf course after his latest surgery remains very much unknown.
Cink, to whom Woods affectionately refers as “The Kitchen,” isn’t sure what exactly Woods is practicing for, or the nature of his practice regiment. But the longtime Woods rival knows it means he’s in “go mode” in some way, shape or form – chasing an objective of some sort.
“We’re all pulling for him to feel as good as he can feel, and if he’s hitting golf balls, then I think he’s on the right direction,” Cink said.
What could Woods be practicing for? There’s still an open spot at the Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, Nov. 30-Dec. 3, lending the possibility he could return to competition there. Two weeks later is the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, which Woods has played alongside son Charlie in three consecutive years. Making the PNC Championship a more likely appearance: Players can use carts.
Woods made the cut at the Masters, his most recent TOUR appearance, with rounds of 74-73 at Augusta National. He then withdrew after completing seven holes of a rainy third round, and he underwent a subtalar fusion procedure just 11 days later.
The Masters marked Woods’ second TOUR start of the 2023 season; he made the cut at The Genesis Invitational in February and finished T45.
Woods has made five TOUR starts since a 2021 car accident in which he suffered multiple breaks in his right tibia and fibula and damaged his feet. He has made the cut four times but completed 72 holes just twice; walking has proven understandably difficult, particularly on uneven terrain.
“I’m very lucky to have this leg,” Woods said at the Masters. “It’s mine. Yes, it has been altered and there’s some hardware in there, but it’s still mine. It has been tough and will always be tough. The ability and endurance of what my leg will do going forward will never be the same. I understand that.
“That’s why I can’t prepare and play as many tournaments as I like, but that’s my future, and that’s okay. I’m okay with that.”