In the aftermath of the U.S. Presidents Cup victory on Sunday, a reporter asked Tiger Woods — with tongue firmly planted in cheek — if he would mind going over his 2020 schedule through the Masters.
After a moment of consternation, Woods broke into a wide grin, dropped a good-natured riff and moved on. Of course, he was never going to divulge what he’s doing next week, let alone in the coming months. But it was worth a shot.
And so is trying to figure out where he will play next, how many tournaments his schedule will entail and where he will visit.
Coming off a Masters victory for his 15th major title, his Zozo Championship win for his 82nd PGA Tour victory to tie Sam Snead’s record and a successful year-end run at the Hero World Challenge and the Presidents Cup, expectations might be even higher than they were to begin 2019. Woods will end the year ranked seventh in the world.
And given the way Woods has looked since August knee surgery, there is considerable reason for optimism.
Before delving into some educated guesses as to where Woods will play in 2020, there are some obvious predictions.
- The schedule is built around the majors. Getting in the correct number of starts before the Masters, and then the PGA Championship (at Harding Park), the U.S. Open (at Winged Foot) and The Open (at Royal St. George’s) will be part of the decision-making.
- The Olympics add a new wrinkle. Whenever asked, Woods has made it clear he’d love a shot at what likely will be his only Olympic Games, to be played two weeks following The Open, in Japan in early August. To qualify, he must be among the top four Americans as of June 22.
- He will play more. Woods — who turns 44 on Dec. 30 — competed in just 14 PGA Tour events during the 2019 season, mostly due to injury. He skipped some starts he might otherwise have played. With the Japan tourney counting, expect that number to be around 18.
- Balancing competition and proper preparation. After the Masters this year, Woods did not play before the PGA Championship, and it showed. He did not play an event between the U.S. Open and The Open. While it is unlikely he will play back-to-back weeks more than twice, you can expect him to add a tournament or two he did not play in order to be better prepared for the majors.
With that, here is what appears likely for 2020, with a few thoughts on tournaments that have been kicked around as well.
Sentry Tournament of Champions (Jan. 2-5)
This seems an extreme reach, but we mention it because Woods is eligible and there are some compelling reasons to play. Small fields are his friend, as are no-cut events. And given that it’s only two weeks away and his game is in form, you could see him going to Hawai’i and winning. But of course, the fact that the tournament is in two weeks and right after a hectic stretch, and with the holidays mixed in, makes it a long shot. Woods most recently played the event in 2005.
Farmers Insurance Open (Jan. 23-26)
This makes sense as the place to begin the new year. Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines and on several occasions has made this his launching point. It also gives him five weeks to decompress and build back up.
Genesis Invitational (Feb. 13-16)
Woods has already committed to the Los Angeles event that is run by his foundation, and it’s now one that has similar status to the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial. Woods tied for 15th in 2009 despite numerous delays and cold weather.
WGC-Mexico Championship (Feb. 20-23)
The only thing standing in the way is if Woods decides he’d rather play his hometown Honda Classic the following week. Don’t look for him to play three in a row at any point. But Mexico offers several advantages. The WGC short field and automatic ranking points are key. And he tied for 10th in 2019 despite a poor week of putting.
Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 5-8)
Even if Woods skips Mexico, playing Honda would mean three consecutive tournaments, with the Arnold Palmer and the Players Championship to follow. Woods skipped the event he’s won eight times due to a neck strain in 2019. Unless he is determined to mirror his 2019 schedule, it’s difficult to see him skipping this tournament.
Players Championship (March 12-15)
The new schedule unveiled in 2019 meant a move of the Players to March and Woods skipping two tournaments he played in 2018, the Honda Classic and the Valspar Championship. If healthy, he’s not missing the Players.
WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship (March 26-29)
Woods made it to the quarterfinals last year after a memorable match-play victory over Rory McIlroy. The WGC format and automatic ranking points seemingly make this Texas event a slam dunk, as it is two weeks prior to the Masters, a time when he likes to play.
The Masters (April 9-12)
Woods is looking at giving himself six starts before the Masters, one more than in 2019. He would play twice in consecutive weeks but just once in the three weeks leading up to the tournament, with time to make a visit to Augusta National.
Wells Fargo Championship (April 30-May 3)
We got this one wrong last year, as did many others who figured Woods would want a start between major championships. The emotional toll from the Masters victory kept him at home rather than in North Carolina, but the lack of preparation for the PGA Championship resulted in a missed cut.
PGA Championship (May 14-17)
Woods won the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship at Harding Park and went 5-0 in the 2009 Presidents Cup there. He’ll be hoping for some warmer temperatures in San Francisco than he had at Bethpage in 2019, when he missed the cut at the PGA.
The Memorial (June 4-7)
No reason to skip Jack Nicklaus’ tournament in Ohio. In one of just six post-Masters starts through the FedEx Cup playoffs, the tie for ninth in 2019 was his best.
U.S. Open (June 18-21)
New York’s Winged Foot is the site of Woods’ first cut in a major as a pro, in 2006. It was his first event following the death of his father, Earl, approximately a month earlier.
WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational (July 2-5)
Woods skipped this Tennessee tournament in 2019 when it was played the week following The Open. He is more likely to play it this time, to give himself a start between the U.S. Open and The Open. Possible glitch: if he makes the Olympic field.
The Open (July 16-19)
In Woods’ only appearance at Royal St. George’s, in 2003, he had a lost ball on the first hole, ended up making a triple-bogey 7 and finished two shots back of winner Ben Curtis in England.
Olympic golf tournament (July 30-Aug. 2)
Woods continues to say that he would love to play in the Olympics. To do so, he will need to be ranked among the top four Americans not outside the top 15 as of the June 22 cutoff. At seventh in the world, he is currently the fourth American, behind Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. It’s hard to see the first two going anywhere. So Woods is effectively fighting for two spots with Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau. With two major championships, the Players and two WGCs prior to the cutoff, there is a lot that can happen.
The Northern Trust (Aug. 13-16)
The first of three playoff events shifts to TPC Boston, and the only reason for Woods to skip it is if he needs a break after the Olympics and doesn’t want to play three in a row in the playoffs.
BMW Championship (Aug. 20-23)
The tournament moves to Olympia Fields, where Woods tied for 20th at the 2003 U.S. Open in his only time playing the Illinois venue.
Tour Championship (Aug. 27-30)
After missing this event in 2019 after winning it a year earlier, you have to figure it is a priority for Woods to make it back to Atlanta.
If you include the Zozo Championship he won in October, that is 18 official PGA Tour events. That doesn’t include the Olympics, and if Woods makes it to Tokyo, expect there to be some juggling to bring the total down by an event or two. All of this, of course, is subject to health and fitness.
As for the fall of 2020, after the PGA Tour season has concluded, there is the potential for the Ryder Cup (Woods is currently fourth in the U.S. standings with a very limited number of events counting), a possible title defense in Japan, with some sort of made-for-TV event added in again, and the Hero World Challenge.