While some are beaten down by “Tiger is returning” headlines, I am more intrigued this time around. Maybe its because he’s a seemingly nicer guy. Maybe its his seemingly more patience following doctor’s orders and taking baby steps before entering the competitive arena for the first time since a WD at Dubai earlier in the year. The absence dropped Woods World Ranking to a career low 1,180th.
GolfDigest.com’s Jaime Diaz is as tied in as anyone with Woods’ on and off again interruptions. In his latest piece, Diaz also believes Woods’ latest heralded comeback feels more optimistic this time.
Woods has been making comebacks – from injuries and personal difficulties – since 2008. None have been as successful as that first one, returning from knee surgery to win the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and most haven’t worked out very well. So it’s reasonable not to expect much when Woods plays in the Hero World Challenge in three weeks. Since he had a first microdiscectomy (the removal of part of a spinal disc to alleviate nerve pain) in March 2014, very little has gone right.
The previous comeback at the same time last year ended up looking very much like it might be his final one. After a 16-month absence from competition forced by two more procedures on the disc in late 2015, Woods showed up at the Hero, made a surprising number of birdies (24, along with six double bogeys) and, though he beat only two players, got good reviews. He seemed to be moving more fluidly, and he set an ambitious playing schedule going forward. But hopes were dashed almost immediately when he badly missed the cut at Torrey Pines and in early February withdrew in Dubai with back spasms. He hasn’t competed since.
It furthered the cynical view that Woods is only playing – or showing off his swing – to retain his endorsement deals. Some thought Woods’ priority is orchestrating a graceful end to his career as a warrior brought down by injuries, rather than from self-inflicted mental wounds stemming from Thanksgiving 2009.
And his recent DUI.
“Some people might want to say that Tiger just had a bad night, but there were five different drugs in his system that night,” says Hank Haney, who was Woods’ coach for six years until 2010. “He had to address that, and it looks like he has.”
Haney is impressed with what he saw in the short videos that Woods released, and made these points.
–“For the first time since 2010, it looks like a swing he can play with. I know what he can play with and what he can’t play with. And I feel he can play with that swing.”
–“The main thing is that he is not getting the club behind him on the downswing, which causes his two-way miss. It’s what he has to do to keep his driver in play.”
–“He’s showing the stinger shot again. I don’t know why he ever stopped using that, but it was one of his great weapons.”
–“As far as swing speed, I think he knows he has sufficient speed to play well or he wouldn’t be trying to play.”
–“The short game is still an unknown issue. But if he’s telling people he’s having chipping contests in his backyard with Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas, it’s because he was not afraid to embarrass himself. Before he was not chipping in public. If he had had trouble in his backyard, that would have gotten out.”
As mentioned, call me intrigued. I think the public interest will ramp up quickly come November 30 when Woods tees it up at his Hero World Challenge.