Tiger can still play majors, but he won't be able to tee it up everywhere

Is Tiger bracing for retirement? (2:04)

ESPN golf analyst Billy Kratzert explores the possibility of Tiger Woods walking away from the sport for good after the Masters. (2:04)

Tiger Woods started his 2017 season with a missed cut, a withdrawal and two DNPs, so naturally there are questions about what's next for the 14-time major champion.

Separate from the debate about whether Woods will win again or catch Jack Nicklaus' major championship record, some might be wondering about things less historical in nature, such as whether he's actually qualified to play in certain tournaments.

So what are the PGA Tour rules surrounding those possibilities? Here are a few topics and some answers that shed a bit of light on the situation.

Can he play the majors?

Woods won the Masters and PGA Championship four times each and can thus play in both events for the rest of his golfing life.

At the U.S. Open, Tiger has a 10-year exemption for winning in 2008 at Torrey Pines that gets him into the second major of the year through 2018, but that comes with a big asterisk. If he shows any inclination to play, he will likely get a USGA special exemption, probably as many as he wants. Jack Nicklaus received eight exemptions while Arnold Palmer got six, including one at Oakmont in 1994 for his final appearance at his national championship.

At The Open, Woods can play through the age of 60, having won the Claret Jug three times in his career.

How long can he play on the PGA Tour?

For all intents and purposes, Woods can't lose his PGA Tour card. He is exempt for life by virtue of his 20-plus PGA Tour wins (79 in all) and being a member of the tour for at least 15 years.

In a worst-case scenario, he would simply drop down from his current exemption status (Category 2 for winners of the Players Championship in the past five years; he won at TPC Sawgrass in 2013) to Lifetime Member status (Category 18, according to the 2016-17 PGA Tour handbook).

For the 2016-17 wraparound season, only 86 players are ahead of Woods to get into a PGA Tour event. Those players actually include the likes of Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino, who haven't played on the PGA Tour in years.

There are some events, though, that Woods can't play in because his world ranking is so low (outside the top 500). For example, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in late March takes the top 64 in the world rankings, so Tiger won't qualify for that event. Nor will he be able to compete in the WGC-Mexico in a few weeks or the WGC-Bridgestone this summer (at a course, Firestone Country Club, that he's won at eight times). And not the WGC-HSBC Champions in China later this year, either.

Woods might also need a sponsor's exemption to get into some invitational tournaments, but what sponsor wouldn't jump at the chance to do that if Tiger wanted to tee it up at an event?

So even though Woods is a lifetime PGA Tour member, he won't be able to tee it up at any event he wants. But it's pretty close.

Retirement talk

Technically, according to the PGA Tour, a player has no paperwork to file in order to officially retire. As the saying goes -- golfers don't retire, they just fade away.

Unless it is determined that Woods absolutely cannot play -- or if he tires of trying to play -- a retirement scenario is highly unlikely. Expect him to try to prolong his career for at least the immediate future. He just signed contracts with Bridgestone to use their golf balls and TaylorMade to play their clubs. Plus, Woods' foundation counts on him being in the public eye, and so does his golf-course design business.

All of those business interests need him to ease into retirement, not just announce it outright.

The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup

Woods has signed on to be an assistant captain for close friend Steve Stricker this year for the Presidents Cup in September outside New York City.

Given Tiger's place, along with Phil Mickelson and 2018 U.S. captain Jim Furyk on the Ryder Cup committee, Woods will undoubtedly have a role with the American team in France next year.

As far as competing on future teams, given his current health situation, Woods seems unlikely to play enough to make either squad on points, so then it comes down to just how active and fit he is. It's hard to imagine a captain not wanting him -- and not using an at-large selection on the 14-time major winner -- if Woods shows any kind of form.

Endorsement deals

It is unknown in Woods' case, but it is not uncommon on the PGA Tour for a pro to have to reach a minimum number of starts in order for various contract terms to kick in. (Woods has made only 12 PGA Tour starts since 2014.)

Nike hasn't publicly said anything about Woods' contract, but suffice it to say he can't be making what he once was, with less Tiger product and fewer public appearances now. Woods simply is not in the driver's seat as he once was, and with his health and future in question, it's a safe bet he's not being blindly paid, no matter how much he has played.

ESPN.com senior writers Bob Harig and Darren Rovell and senior golf editor Kevin Maguire contributed to this story.