Watching Tiger Woods at the Hero Challenge last week was good fun.
Seeing the guy who changed golf, and sport as a whole, compete once more is definitely a good thing.
As each shot was criticised, movement analysed, and activity scrutinised, those around golf were asking one question;
‘Is Tiger Back?’
If journalists were uttering this useless trollop, then that is just lazy.
We all know that players coming back from injuries take time, especially when you have a ‘minimally invasive fusion at the L5/S1 vertebral segment at the base of the spine.’
What we were actually looking for when Tiger teed it up, was answers to the following questions;
- Is his movement restricted when swinging? – As in 2016
- Does he still have the fire of competition?
- Where does he still need work?
First of all, his movement through the golf ball was excellent. Ball speeds of 180+ mph are McIlroy-type numbers, which is incredibly encouraging.
Length is super-important with the yardage of courses today, therefore having the ability to compete with the long guys is an advantage.
This ball speed also creates spin with iron-in-hand, thus allowing distance control and stopping the ball on the greens.
Restrictions? Doesn’t look like it.
Second of all, you can just tell he loved being out there.
He was fist pumping putts in round one, was chatting away with his caddy with the ball in the air from 270+ yards, and then visibly annoyed after a tough round 3.
This is proof that the fire is still there, and he loves being inside the ropes.
Something that I believe genuinely gets him going is that his kids get to watch him compete. To them, he was just a ‘YouTube golfer’ whereas having them follow him was a nice moment for a guy with significant issues.
Finally, to where should we look for improvement.
There were a couple of duffed chips in Round 1, bringing back some memories of his previous return. His thinned effort at the Wyndham in 2015, was a particularly shocking moment, so the further away we can relegate that memory the better.
His driving was good one the whole, but it is important to note that the Albany Course they were playing on last week, was pretty much a home track for TW. The fairways are massive, there aren’t many hazards and when you do miss as there are merely waste areas.
What he really needs to do is mix up his schedule between now and The Masters. Avoiding Torrey Pines would be my first suggestion, as the cold weather that is present at an early tee time makes it difficult to ‘activate his glutes’ as Tiger famously quipped.
Dubai may be a stretch too far also, due to the travelling. Whether the money may be too ridiculous to turn down we shall see.
Having Tiger back inside the ropes is good for all of sport. Seeing him compete against the younger guys will help answer a load of questions that would have lingered were he to have retired.
You only need to look at the likes of Phil and Ernie to see how a 40+ year old can win Majors.
However, before we look at them, let’s just allow him to play a load of golf.
Is Tiger back?