Golfer or not, you've heard of Tiger Woods. The man who was the national collegiate player of the year at Stanford. The man who has won three US Amateurs. The man who was named PGA player of the year eleven times. The man who has won seventy nine PGA tour events. And the man who has been crowned champion of fourteen major championships. Yet, many know him for his biggest fault. People call him "Cheetah Woods" after Tiger famously cheated on his wife, but like him or not, Tiger Woods is undoubtedly the greatest golfer of this era and perhaps the greatest golfer of all time. This week, Tiger Woods returns in the Hero World Challenge after a fifteen month absence. Will he able to play like his former self?
If you ask someone on the street who the best golfer in the world is, they might be correct and say Jason Day, but more likely than not, they would think of Tiger Woods. But that answer is extremely far from true; Tiger Woods currently stands at 898th in the world golf rankings. Tiger has fallen back in the standings partly because of poor play but mostly because of injuries and missed time.
Since March in 2014, Tiger has undergone a number of back surgeries. After his initial surgery, Woods returned to competitive golf a few months later and struggled. He missed cuts, was bugged by more back problems, and had to take a break for multiple back surgeries by September 2015.
Tiger had his last back surgery on October 28, 2015. He has had over a year to prepare, to practice, and to return. The world expected Tiger to be ready sooner than November as he intended to come back at the Safeway Open in October but withdrew. He said, "My game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be." In other words, Tiger's game was not to his standards, but the fourteen time major winner has higher standards than most PGA players.
Tiger himself once said, "I'm all or nothing." He isn't going to return hoping to be average and make the cut. If he doesn't have a chance to win, he won't play. This week, Tiger said about his upcoming tournament, "I'm going to try to win this thing." That will be difficult to do as he's facing the world's top players. Still, however, Tiger can do the impossible. If he could win the 2008 US Open on a broken leg, who is to say he couldn't win in his first event back?
“I have way more shots now, because I’ve played way more golf. I only had a handful of shots back then. And you just saw a session where I hit everything. And I had control of everything. I can hit all the shots now, on call."
After a range session this week, Tiger sounded pretty confident in himself. Comparing himself to when he withdrew in October, Tiger knows that he is now ready. Last October, he was unsure in himself, and in the past when Tiger struggled, he lacked self confidence and didn't trust his shots. Here in this quote, Tiger has plenty of confidence and believes that he’s ready.
Lastly, history tends to repeat itself. We've been here before. Tiger was out with leg injuries from 2011-2012. People questioned Tiger and thought the champ was done, but Tiger quickly silenced the doubters. Returning to full health in 2013, Tiger was PGA Tour player of the year. He may not have won a major but won five other tournaments and was dominating golf once again. Unfortunately, however, back injuries shortened his reign.
Am I saying Tiger wins this weekend? No. Am I saying Tiger wins eventually? Yes. At age 40, Woods is still relatively young for golf. Don't believe me? Just look at Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson. At ages 46 and 40, they are playing great golf and competing at a high level. Now, Tiger Woods is ready to play at the same level. He's proven that he can return from an injury before. He's confident in himself. And I'm confident in him. Tiger Woods most likely won't be as good as he once was, but he might surprise some people. The time is now for Tiger Woods, and the golf world looks forward to seeing his red shirt on Sunday afternoons.
You can watch the comeback begin starting Thursday 10:30 PT on Golf Channel.