If American Family Championship is team event, might Tiger Woods play?

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MADISON, Wis. — “I guess, hello world, huh?” – Tiger Woods, on Aug. 28, 1996, at Brown Deer Golf Course.

When Woods turned professional, the Greater Milwaukee Open fell at the right place and the right time. With the U.S. Amateur ending Aug. 25 – a tournament Woods won and determined would be his last amateur competition – he had to turn pro somewhere.

Perhaps on the 30th anniversary of his professional debut, the 2026 American Family Insurance Championship will present the right time and place for Woods to finally return to Wisconsin.

Ernie Els let it slip Sunday afternoon that the AmFam Championship will have a new format in 2025 when it moves to TPC Wisconsin, but tournament director Nate Pokrass said the team event has not yet been finalized by the PGA Tour Champions.

A change in venue and format in 2025 could set the stage for tournament host Steve Stricker to pair with Jerry Kelly for a supersized “home course” advantage, but the team concept also could go a long way to convince Woods to return to Wisconsin to play alongside Stricker in 2026 after Woods turns 50.

Stricker’s redesign of TPC Wisconsin and the tournament’s move there next year is no small thing in this discussion.

University Ridge Golf Course was a fine host for the AmFam Championship from 2016-24, but the University of Wisconsin’s home course was never meant for the volume of spectators it attracted. And it surely wouldn’t be able to hold hundreds of thousands that would no doubt make the pilgrimage from around the Midwest to see the greatest golfer of all time return to where he turned pro.

The TPC network includes 30 courses owned and operated by the PGA Tour – and more than a handful of tournaments. While not all the TPC venues host tournaments, the concept of all them was to host “stadium golf.”

The PGA Tour Champions could also be appealing for Woods.

At this stage in his life, his body broken and put back together, Woods cannot compete regularly anymore. He hopes to play perhaps once a month, but walking 18 holes in a competitive format clearly takes its toll – let alone trying to get through a full 72. Who knows how he’ll be feeling when he becomes eligible for golf’s senior circuit when he turns 50 on Dec. 30, 2025.

But, Champions players can use carts if desired.

And a team format also could be intriguing to Woods at that point, especially if he plays with Stricker.

Woods has admitted he can’t practice much in the present. And Stricker opened this year’s AmFam Championship saying he’s contemplated retirement – or at the very least dialing back his schedule. By June 2026 he’ll be 59.

The two played together at the 2010 and 2012 Ryder Cup and the 2009 and 2011 Presidents Cup, so joining forces again would likely offset the pressure on one another to be singularly sharp.

As for the timing of the AmFam Championship, which has always been in early June, it may be enough to scratch Woods’ itch to compete monthly. He had to be granted a special exemption to play in this year’s U.S. Open, but would the U.S. Golf Association still be extending those two summers from now? Would Woods even feel he can compete at Shinnecock Hills in mid-June 2026?

Let’s say the USGA does. A 54-hole team event (perhaps using a cart) a few weeks before could be a useful warmup without taxing him too much for a 72-hole major.

There hasn’t been a “Tiger roar” in Wisconsin since Woods made a hole-in-one on the 202-yard 14th hole at Brown Deer in his opening tournament in 1996. Could you imagine the introduction of Stricker and Woods on the first tee, and the walkup to the 18th green? And if they were to win?

Wisconsinites know and love their golf, and they’ve been waiting decades to say hello to Woods again. A revamped AmFam Championship feels like the perfect opportunity to do so.

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