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Tiger Woods sounds more optimistic about his game than a Saudi deal getting done on time

Tiger Woods extends his arm on the golf course and congratulates his son, Charlie, after finishing a round of golf
Tiger Woods, left, congratulates his son, Charlie, after finishing a round at the 2022 PNC Championship. Woods is returning to golf after an eight-month absence.
(Kevin Kolczynski / Associated Press)
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Tiger Woods sounded more optimistic about playing golf next year than he did about the PGA Tour finalizing a deal with Saudi Arabia or private investors by the end of the year.

Woods addressed reporters this week for the first time in nearly eight months, and so much has happened since then — fusion surgery on his right ankle that kept him out of golf, the PGA Tour’s shocking agreement with the backers of LIV Golf and his decision to join the PGA Tour board for the first time in his career.

He is playing the Hero World Challenge, his holiday event in the Bahamas for 20 top players. Woods said his ankle — but not the rest of his body — is pain-free and even suggested he hopes that he can play once a month next year, starting with the Genesis Invitational at Riviera.

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Woods was most candid about his frustration that he and other players were blindsided by the secret negotiations by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and two high-profile board members that led to the agreement announced June 6 with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

“We were very frustrated with what happened and we took steps going forward to ensure that the player involvement ... we were not going to be left out of the process like we were,” he said. “So part of that process was putting me on the board and accepting that position.”

Leaders of the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf have been locked in a fight over the future of golf. On Tuesday, they announced a shocking merger.

June 6, 2023

He also expressed faith in Monahan as one reason he agreed to join the board, “what he can do going forward and what can’t happen again.”

He was far more vague on details, not surprising since the board negotiations are private. Woods said only there were options, a lot of moving parts and that all sides were working aggressively toward finalizing a deal.

“All the parties are talking and we’re aggressively working on trying to get a deal done,” he said. “We’re all trying to make sure that the process is better, too. So the implementation of governance is one of the main topics (along) with getting the deal done, but making sure it’s done the right way.”

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The agreement for a for-profit commercial enterprise was with PIF and the European tour. Now there are five private equity groups wanting to get involved, such as Fenway Sports Group and a Friends of Golf, a group that includes Henry Kravis and George Roberts.

The agreement announced in June set a Dec. 31 deadline to be finalized, though there was a clause that it could be extended.

“I am confident a deal will get done in some way,” Woods said. “Whether that comes Dec. 31 or is pushed back, all sides understand we’re working together.”

Among the topics is a fair pathway back to the tour for LIV players who want to return, and where team golf can fit in. He said the future appeared just as murky for those working on the agreement as it might seem to those on the outside.

“There’s a lot of moving parts on how we’re going to play, whether it’s here on the PGA Tour or it’s merging or team golf,” he said. “There’s a lot of different aspects that are being thrown out there all at once and we are trying to figure all that out and what is the best solution for all parties and best solution for all the players that are involved.”

Here’s a closeup look at all 18 holes of the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club, the site of the 2023 U.S. Open, which begins Thursday.

June 11, 2023

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Among moving parts is his ankle, which appears to be moving just fine. Woods said it was a matter of time before he would have needed ankle replacement surgery or fusion, and he chose the latter in April a few weeks after he made the cut at the Masters but then withdrew.

“I don’t have any of the ankle pain that I had with the hardware that’s been placed in my foot. That’s all gone,” Woods said. “The other parts of my body, my knee hurts, my back. The forces go somewhere else. Just like when I had my back fused, the forces have to go somewhere. So it’s up the chain.”

He said he was “just as curious as all of you” how he would play against a 20-man field in the Bahamas, though he said walking 90 holes (including the pro-am) would not be an issue.

Woods has been saying for years that his schedule would be drastically reduced because of so many surgeries. He sounded far more optimistic going into 2024, suggesting an ideal scenario of once a month, still uncertain if that’s realistic.

Such a schedule might include Riviera in February, The Players Championship in March and the majors in April, May, June and July.

“This week is a big step in that direction,” he said.

The other direction is working toward a finalized deal by the end of the year, or soon thereafter. Woods also is seen as a top candidate to be the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain for Bethpage Black in 2025. He said his time is consumed with board duties and he’s not willing to entertain any thoughts on the Ryder Cup just yet.

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