Tiger to Return

Tiger to Play the Safeway

Tiger Woods says that it’s official. After months and months of nagging injuries, surgeries, and undoubtedly a series of head trips, the once greatest in the world will visit the Napa Valley soon for the Safeway Open. And why not? The fall in Napa, where the tournament will be featured on the exquisite Silverado Resort, should be utterly phenomenal, one of the best places in the Western United States in which to experience the autumn season.

tigerThe social media, as expected, has gone crazy with Tiger over his projected return. The immediate talk, of course, has turned to whether or not he can win. Odds are flying around Vegas and every other gambling center on his chances of not only making the cut or winning the Safeway, but are projecting out as far as the next Masters. As Kyle Porter of Yahoo points out, the odds placed on a Tiger victory in the Safeway are precisely the same as they are for the Masters, despite featuring two entirely different fields. Porter goes on to suggest, in fact, that these odds are absurd, and should be recalibrated, perhaps around 700 to 1 or somewhere in that area. I must say that at this early date, I agree. I would go even further to say that placing odds at all, or getting out one’s Tiger gear to go berserk when he birdies the last eight holes of the final round is nothing short of pure silliness.

Don’t count me in with any group that assumes that Tiger is finished, kaput, gone. I don’t know enough about the game or the prcess of being on the professional golf tour to have a real sense of that. However, if it”s anything like other professional tours that demand virtuosic motor control, I can say that coming back from injuries does not involve throwing a switch and having everything be suddenly all right. Some of the best names in the game have expressed optimism that Tiger can win again, although for how long, no one is certain.Johnny Miller is one of them, and he’s played and watched a lot of golf over the years.
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Many think, probably accurately, that Tiger has chosen to reenter the game in an event such as the Safeway because it doesn’t boast the same sort of field, or occupy such a high-profile place in the season’s schedule. That’s a good idea on Tiger’s part. You take it to Where-Am-I, Iowa before you take it to Carnegie Hall. You take it to Safeway before you take it to Augusta. Those among us who will pounce on Tiger if he isn’t instantly wonderful must remind ourselves that despite this being a first appearance for us, it is a late stage of recovery for him.
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So, who cares if Tiger wins? I’m more interested in whether that body has found a place where it feels good and can function all day, not just through 13 when it falls apart. I am interested in whether the putter has any of the old magic, not whether he can crank out 400 yard drives with the abandon he once had. Most of all, I am interested in watching the return of the Tiger mind, generally invincible in the old days. I am even watching to see how truly interested Tiger is at playing again, or does his enthusiasm really extend so far as to insist on being a champion. Want to is one thing, insisting is another, and nobody was ever better than Tiger at insisting.

Besides, the field won’t be all that uninteresting. Phil Mickelson, a 42-time winner on the PGA, has committed to playing the tournament. If Phil plays a good, upper end of normal game for himself, and Tiger starts to look anything like his old self again, it could be a very cool week, even a better weekend in the Napa Valley. So, let’s welcome Tiger back quietly, without shouting. Let’s study how he looks late in the day, and for crying out lout, let’s stop setting odds until he’s been back a while.
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