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We Should Not Be Surprised by Tiger's Comeback

By: | Thu 23 Dec 2021

NOBODY who witnessed Tiger Woods’ latest comeback should be surprised. He has had umpteen back, knee and leg operations over the years after all. And has fought his way back each and every time.

Yes, it was only a low-key 36-hole exhibition event played in the company of his 12 year-old son, but Woods once again proved to be box office.

So many of the shots that he played were vintage Woods. It has to be said that the Ritz Carlton Golf Club is not the toughest challenge. But Tiger has spent almost all of 2021 in rehab, recovering from the dreadful injuries he suffered in a car crash in February. You would never have known it. 

He still has a long way to go. Now he must wait for a badly damaged right leg, ankle and foot to recover sufficiently to allow him to walk 72 holes. There is clearly plenty of work still to be done, and there were times in Florida when he was obviously still in pain. 

The road ahead for Woods remains an unknown. He has been quick to say that he will never again be able to play a full schedule, hoping to pick and choose where and when he competes.

Will he be fit enough to take part in The Masters in April? Augusta is one of the hilliest courses on the major circuit. The Old Course at St Andrews may be a more realistic target, given that it is relatively flat and 2022 will see the 150th Open Championship. It also helps that he has twice won there.

Matt Kuchar - who with his oldest son, Cameron, 14, was grouped with Tiger and Charlie - was both impressed and surprised by the state of Woods’ game.

“Seeing what he can do just swinging a golf club makes me think that he will figure the other part out,” Kuchar said. “I think he’s got the hard part down.”

Woods dismissed Kuchar’s suggestion that he appeared to be Tour ready. “No, no, no, no,” Woods said. “I totally disagree. I'm not - I'm not at that level. I can't compete against these guys right now. It's going to take a lot of work to get to where I feel like I can compete with these guys and be at a high level.”

Remember, too, that he is about to turn 46.

Be that as it may, his PNC return was all about Tiger enjoying a few days of low-key golf with his son, Charlie, who, for a second consecutive year shone brightly. They wanted to have fun and they clearly achieved that. 

“It’s incredible,” Padraig Harrington said. “It’s on occasions like this that people on the ‘inside’ see how big Tiger really is. We’re on the inside. I played with him all these years, and you get somewhat used to it. I remember when he came back at Tampa (2018 Valspar Championship), and there was just a different noise, a different crowd. None of the younger guys would have seen that.

“He completely upped it at The Masters and the Tour Championship  [which he won in late 2018], and he comes out here and there is a different excitement. It’s just amazing. Last year was the Charlie Woods Show, and Tiger figured a way to make it the Tiger Woods Show this year.”

Team Woods finished second in Floria, two shots behind John Daly and his son John Jr. He usually shows up to win, but this time he was just thankful to be out there playing and having fun with his boy.

The fans who watched it all unfold simply loved it. They may have to wait for months to see him compete again. Maybe longer. But we know he won’t be back until and unless he knows that he can compete. 

“I always think that golf is in a really good place, regardless of who’s around,” said Kuchar. “There’s a great crop of young kids who are really doing well. But look, we all know the Tiger Effect is real. It’s a massive needle mover. Just to see this event, the excitement, the buzz, it’s huge. Everywhere he goes, it follows him.”

It was great to see him back, even in a fun event. 

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