Tiger Appears Viable and Sometimes Brilliant at Hero World Challenge
After years of fits and starts in an attempted comeback, many of us were asleep at the wheel for this one, or at least had dozed off for the moment. The Tiger comeback bell can only be rung so often before we lose a step or two in responding, but the weekend has cured us of the mistake. For a few moments, it took some effort to excuse the fact that Tiger and the rest of a small but elite field were playing golf in the Bahamas. Having been there on one occasion, I wished myself back into the warm, historic, sandy paradise, but it didn’t work.
What happened at the Albany course of Nassau broke through the Tiger Woods comeback curse, and convincingly. One had to be struck by the fact that he entered a tournament at all, considering what he’d been through. It was a wise choice, a small field without a cut line, and yet including many of the world’s best players. Tiger’s first round score of 68 merited some modest applause. Many professionals can shoot a 68, and at one time in history, it meant that Tiger had a bad day. Still, a 68 is a 68. History also has provided us with scenes of Tiger pulling up in pain in mid-round, more than once, and putting himself back into the deep freeze. That did not happen. He walked off the 18th in the same condition in which he approached the 1st, ready to brave another round on the next day. The next round was as successful as the first, with flashes of the old Tiger Woods brilliance, and again no seizing up, no professional heartbreak. Round 3 was not as successful on the score card, but where it counts right now, affirmed that the work Woods has been doing has borne results. On the final day, he revisited the sub 70s, and his people are talking right now about where and when to play on the tour this year. The winter trajectory, without question, arrives at Augusta, still feeling good, swinging well, and scoring in the 60s in all four rounds. Weeks ago, I might have consigned that dream to the scrapheap of history, but this Tiger is looking like the real one, and the real one can win tournaments such as the Masters.
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The reflex may be to question Tiger’s age, and concentrate on the length of his time off. Ah, too bad, we might think. All those lost opportunities. The former great, however well his recuperation might go, is past his prime. It is a fact that must faced. However, we should take care not to address a chronological number for Tiger in the same way we would for ourselves. Golf, for most, is a game, not a sport. However, unlike many who master it with their skills, Woods is also an athlete, and not just once in a while. His strength and constitution is the product of a life of devotion to it. He’s not our 41, he’s a different 41, and he adds an enduring strength and swing power to the skills. If his most recent work holds up, he could win anywhere, anything, over anyone. In the past years, I could not have said that, and it surprises me to say it now, but he still has a chance at the big stuff.
The big news is not the three rounds in the 60s, or one round that got away from him. The news is that he competed for four days after a long layoff, and walked away in good shape. Tiger finished a tournament, and is ready for another. We won’t doze off again, and are watching carefully.