Positive Reports on Tiger Ahead of Comeback
THE internet is alive with reports of how well Tiger Woods is hitting the ball ahead of his long-awaited comeback at the Hero Challenge in the Bahamas – especially after he played in a four ball with Dustin Johnson, Brad Faxon and some guy called Trump.
Faxon, who is now plying his trade on the Champions Tour, was full of praise for Woods. However, it may be the things he didn’t say that are the most pertinent. We will come back to that later.
"He looked great. I think more than anything, he looked at ease," Faxon said on Golfweek. "He was not concerned about swinging hard and going at it with driver. The ball flight, the sound off the club, all of it was right there.” That sounds really encouraging, especially when Faxon then added that not only was he keeping up with Johnson but was actually outdriving him.
Lest you forget, the Dustinator is one of the biggest hitters on the PGA Tour, regularly smashing to out there more than 320 yards. Woods used to do the same thing, but in recent years he has not been able to find a fairway to save his life. And there have also been the well-documented issues with his short game.
Let’s return to Faxon’s assessment. "Tiger looked like he had all the touch shots down," Faxon continued. "On the very first hole he hit a pitch shot over a bunker that looked great. He hit some tough little pitch shots, tough chip shots and hit some close. Some to gimme’ distance.” The key word there may be ‘some’. He hit ‘some’ close. He hot ‘some’ to gimme distance. Remember that this was a friendly four ball, with no pressure – entirely different to playing under pressure, with the eyes of the world watching your every move..
Critically, perhaps, Faxon added that he doesn’t expect a grandstand performance from Woods in the immediate future. And nor should we. Most encouraging of all, however, was Faxon’s view that Tiger is “in a great place mentally and physically.”
Faxon said: "We played a casual best ball match with a small wager – President Trump and I played Dustin and Tiger. They played from the back tees at 7,600 yards and we played up to the blue tees at about 6,500 yards. I’d seen that Tiger had played with Rickie Fowler and Rickie made some comments about Tiger hitting the ball well and looking good. I would echo the same thing.
"Tiger looked great to me. He was happy and, more than anything, he’s finally pain-free. The issues he had with the back the last couple of comebacks seem to be gone. He looked effortless, he looked free, he had some power. I was impressed with how far he hit the ball. Probably on the 10 holes that they were both hitting driver, Tiger hit it past Dustin half the time and Dustin hit it past Tiger half the time. He looked great. I think more than anything, he looked at ease. He was not concerned about swinging hard and going at it with driver. The ball flight, the sound off the club, all of it was right there.
"I also need to mention how impressive Johnson was, and how much fun it was to watch the current World No. 1 up close. He definitely lived up to the billing."
Apparently, Faxon had a birdie putt on the final green to square the match, and left it hanging on the edge of the hole, so Johnson and Woods finished one up. Faxon did not tell us what Woods scored. He only mentioned the positives. Did the great man hit the ball straight? Does he still have that killer putting stroke? Did he pitch and chip the ball well throughout the round? We all hope that the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes’ and that it continues to be so in the Bahamas.
Best of all was this from Faxon: "I’m just so happy that he’s happy and can swing a golf club pain-free. We know there’s so much more to the game than hitting the ball, but he’s got a chance. He can practice again, work without being hurt.” Everybody who loves this great game will agree with that and hope that this is the comeback we have all been waiting for. Woods will be 42 when he returns to proper competitive action next year, but Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Darren Clarke all won majors in their 40s. His age is not the problem. The only thing that matters is whether or not his body can stand up to it.
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