You probably heard the news...
After undergoing back surgery this past April - his fourth in the span of about four years - Tiger Woods will be making his return to competitive golf in a few weeks' time, at his own HERO World Challenge, held at Albany, an Ernie Els designed in Nassau, Bahamas, November 30 - December 3.
Albany bills itself as an exclusive, high-end community, but it is possible to access the course as a non-member by staying at the club. That said, it's one of the most expensive places in the world to stay and play, with overnight accommodations starting at a hefty $2,500 per night.
Albany's sky-high price point fits in with Tiger's status and lifestyle - he's the world's first billionaire athlete, after all - but is it the type of course where he'll play well?
Maybe not. Judging by his track record, Tiger loves courses that are for all of us, not just the privileged few.
The Tiger Woods Golf Trail
Of the 106 professional victories (including 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour wins) Tiger Woods has amassed in his incredible career, 61 have happened on municipal, daily-fee and resort courses. Given that so many top-level professional golf tournaments are played on private courses, Woods' dominance at public and resort courses is particularly staggering.
Of the public-access courses where he has won, a handful stick out as places where he has won multiple times, and where particularly notable moments in his career have transpired.
This "Tiger Woods Golf Trail" spans the world. Here are the main stops:
Torrey Pines Golf Course - La Jolla, Calif.
If there's one public golf facility most closely associated with Woods' storied career, it's Torrey Pines - specifically, the South Course. Woods has won an insane eight professional events there, including in 2008, when he won both the Farmers Insurance Open early in the year and the U.S. Open in June, on one leg, in a playoff over Rocco Mediate. The South Course has hosted the most dramatic moments, but Woods would not have won so many Farmers Insurance Opens without taking care of business in his rounds on the shorter, sportier North Course, as well.
Bay Hill Club & Lodge - Orlando, Fla.
Bay Hill plays a close second-fiddle to Torrey Pines in Woods' illustrious career, as he's racked up seven Arnold Palmer Invitationals at the home of The King.
Poipu Bay Golf Course - Kauai, Hawaii
Torrey Pines and Bay Hill - as well as Muirfield Village and Firestone on the private side - receive most of the recognition as key places in Woods career, but Poipu Bay has been very good to him as well, as he's won seven times there, all in past editions of the now-defunct Grand Slam of Golf, a four-man "silly-season" event that used to bring together the year's four major champions. So yes, these were small-field wins in his prime, but a win's a win, isn't it?
Poipu Bay is situated on the southern coast of Kauai, known as Hawaii's "Garden Isle." The course is associated with the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.
Cog Hill Golf & Country Club (No. 4 Course) - Lemont, Ill.
Cog Hill has faded somewhat from golf fans' consciousness in recent years, as the Western Open, now known as the BMW Championship, has shifted away from the venerable Chicagoland public complex. But in his prime, Tiger Woods won here five times. You can play this bruiser of a course for $155.
Trump National Doral - Miami, Fla.
Woods tamed the Blue Monster four times from 2005 to 2013, before Donald Trump bought the resort and hired Gil Hanse to toughen the course back to its former fearsome glory. The bones of the course remain broadly similar, and who can forget the epic duel between Woods and Phil Mickelson there in 2005?
Omni La Costa Resort & Spa
Woods initially became a household name on the strength of his match play prowess, as he won three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateurs, followed by three consecutive U.S. Amateurs, from 1991 to 1996. His individual match play record as a pro is excellent as well, as he won three match-play World Golf Championships at La Costa, in 1997, 2003 and 2004. Oddly enough, his most famous La Costa moment came in a non-winning year: the first round of the 2006 event, when opponent Stephen Ames proclaimed that anything can happen" against Woods, who was having ball-striking issues at that time. "Anything" did happen - Woods absolutely annihilated Ames, 9&8 (3:29 mark of the video above).
La Costa's routing has changed somewhat in recent years, but Tiger fan or not, you would do well to spend time at this resort, now part of the Omni family.
TPC Harding Park - San Francisco, Calif.
Tiger Woods has only teed it up twice in his professional career at Harding Park, but both times have resulted in victories: in thrilling fashion over John Daly in the 2005 American Express Championship, and as a member of the victorious American Presidents Cup squad in 2009, when he went a perfect 5-0 in his matches. If Woods can get his groove back (and get his back healthy) over the next couple years, circle the 2020 PGA Championship there as a potential Tiger-in-winter triumph.
TPC Sawgrass (Stadium) - Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Sawgrass is something of an anomaly on this list, because despite having won three huge events there in his life - the 1995 U.S. Amateur and the 2001 and 2013 PLAYERS - his track record at the course is somewhat mixed. If anything, this makes the Pete Dye classic all the more intriguing as a course to experience and study for its associations with Woods.
The Grove - Hertfordshire, U.K.
The Grove is one of many courses on which Tiger Woods has won just once, but it belongs on this list because, like Harding Park, it is a place where Woods is batting 1.000. That win wasn't so much a victory as a clinic - Woods shot 23-under par for four days and won by eight strokes over Ian Poulter and Adam Scott.
You probably won't go quite that low, but The Grove's Kyle Phillips-designed course is one of England's best-regarded inland layouts , and the attendant resort is lovely.
TPC Scottsdale - Scottsdale, Ariz.
Tiger never did win here, but you can probably tell from the video above why it deserves to be a stop on the Tiger Woods Golf Trail...
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