Will he or wont he turn up? Tiger Woods is scheduled to return to competitive golf in tomorrows Hero World Challenge in Albany in the Bahamas. It’s a small field event with 18 competitors taking part and is one where Woods acts as host and has won it five times previously. It’s been nine months since we last saw him and since then he has undergone spinal-fusion surgery on his back in April.
The last few months have seen him tease us with videos of how his golf swing was progressing starting with him hitting some wedge shots until earlier this month he released some shots of him hitting a driver. Certainly his swing looked a little different and in the eyes of most analysts looked a lot better, seemingly putting a lot less strain on his troublesome back. It is one thing hitting practice shots but could the new swing stand up to the pressure of actually playing before spectators and the heat of competition?
He has gradually become more visible and last week was seen playing with President Trump and Dustin Johnson. There were various reports that he had been out driving DJ on some holes which got many people terribly excited. On Sunday he played a few holes with Patrick Reed who also hyped up Woods performance and agreed with other people who had seen Woods perform that he looked to be pain free and swinging well.
At yesterdays press conference Woods appeared relaxed and tried to dampen expectations by saying he didn’t know how his body would stand up to four rounds of golf but he was surprised that he wasn’t in any pain and appeared optimistic. With this build up it looks increasingly likely that he will appear on the first tee tomorrow and not to do so would be more of a surprise.
The question is what will he score. Realistically if he can play through four rounds that will be a result in itself. It would be one of the most amazing comebacks in sport if he was in contention. There is no doubt that he will be able to have a swing that will enable to hit the ball after all he has had four different swings in his stellar career so he has always been able to adapt. What will be interesting to see is how his short game stands up. When he was at the height of his powers it was his putting that propelled him to greatness and his ability to get up and down was taken for granted. The last time we saw him in competition he was a long way away from that and appeared to have difficulty actually chipping the ball, never mind getting it close to the hole.
Whatever happens a huge television audience is guaranteed to see how Woods gets on and for the good of the game it would be great to see him back and able to compete with today’s modern younger superstars. Is that a realistic hope? Probably not but it will make for unmissable viewing over the next four days.