Don't call it a Tiger comeback ... yet
November 01, 2017
By Ben Everil, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods' golf swing compilation from 1993 - 2018
LAS VEGAS – He’s baaaaaack. Well not really. Well maybe… Let’s just wait and see.
There was no mistaking the murmurs on the range and the putting green at TPC Summerlin – Tiger Woods returning certainly got people on the PGA TOUR talking.
Late Monday, Woods announced he will make his long-awaited return to competition from back fusion surgery at his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on Nov. 30 – Dec. 3.
Plenty of players were talking about said comeback and their excitement for it – but there was also an air of trepidation – let’s not call it a comeback just yet.
“It’s great to have him back but it’s not really a comeback at Hero - it will be when he gets in a full field PGA TOUR event and sees how he stacks up against the guys on TOUR now,” long-term rival Ernie Els said in Las Vegas.
“He needs to play a few tournaments. It will be interesting to see what the swing looks like, what the attitude looks like, and what the body looks like in the Bahamas.”
You see, we’ve been here before.
Woods won five times in 2013 on the PGA TOUR, but since then he’s made just 19 starts. He has gone through four surgeries in the last three years and has not played in the USA since the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open in January.
A year ago he made a comeback attempt at the Hero World Challenge where he finished 15th in the 18-man field despite leading the field in birdies.
By the time he made it to Torrey Pines the hype was massive yet he shot 76-72 to miss the cut and after back issues in the middle east he opted for further surgery.
“I don’t know if he came back early before but it was certainly clear there might have been some external pressure to come back. Everyone around the TOUR wants him back, fans want him back, players, sponsors. There was a lot of pressure on him to come back,” veteran Rod Pampling says.
“But it seems he’s taken more time this time around. It still needs to be a handful of tournaments in a row, no WD’s, no funky walking out of bunkers, none of those sorts of things we saw and thought, wow it doesn’t look good.”
Els urged the fans to be patient with this edition of Woods’ return.
On the Range
Tiger Woods' 2016 pre-round warm-up routine
The South African finished inside the top-6 in six of the 14 majors Woods won, including runner up two times and has been front and center throughout his career.
He would like fans to put realistic hopes on the speed of whatever level the 79-time TOUR winner can get back to.
“You get the sense he really wants to get back to old TOUR life, week in and week out, Els said.
“But let’s be reasonable and hopefully he is also reasonable. I know he wants to come with an attitude of I want to win and compete but I think a top 30, making a cut, getting comfortable are all good early goals in this case. You can work yourself up from there.
“The public should also look at it that way. It is certainly going to be great to see him back in the arena and just take it for that and worry about the rest down the road. Let it just start flowing. Let him get comfortable out there again. Things have changed out here and let’s see how he adapts his game to the new body.”
Bubba Watson took things a step further when it comes to expectations saying we shouldn’t care at all how Woods plays – just embrace the fact he’s playing at all.
“Forget score,” Watson implored.
“If Jack Nicklaus said he’s returning this week – no one cares what score he shoots. I’m not comparing their situations but they are two legends. You don’t care what Jack shoots, you just want Jack here.
“We should all be thrilled to see a great champion like Tiger show up and be able to play again. You always want your legends to keep playing. And if he can get back near his best golf over time then, let’s face it, it’s great for the game and I hope it happens.”
Tiger Woods' all-time shots on the PGA TOUR
Woods turns 42 in December and can still hope to catch Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA TOUR wins. Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors might be a bridge too far – but you can never say never.
Snead holds the record for oldest victory at 52. There are seven occasions of players winning post 50 including his good friend Davis Love III.
Love III contended multiple times last season at 53!
“We have seen it through the years. A lot of guys have won majors in their 40s. It’s proven. It’s there. It’s a fact,” Els, who won the Open Championship at 42 says.
“And Tiger is one of the best. If myself, Phil (Mickelson), Vijay (Singh), Darren Clarke... if we can do it he can certainly do it.”
After last season was dominated by 20-somethings Pampling says a Tiger Woods at his best would be sensational viewing for everyone.
He won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last year as a 47-year-old and knows not to write off Woods.
“I want to see him stare down a few of these young guys so they can experience what it’s like when the hairs stand up on the back of your neck or when he’s the guy you have to chase,” Pampling grinned.
“They’ve seen his dominance as kids, but they’ve never felt it.
“Realistically if he got to 75percent of where he used to be he’d still be able to win a couple of times a year. Of course it will be very hard to get it back to that level but if he does get that spark back the young guys at the top will need to look out.”
Just where Woods plays after the Bahamas is still a mystery. In the past he would play in the Middle East and usually pop up on TOUR at Torrey Pines where he’s won eight times.
But Torrey is a tough test, especially on the back with its juicy rough. Maybe Woods could look at the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in early January before the Farmers Insurance Open.
It’s a flat course that yields plenty of birdies in a perfect setting to ease your way back to TOUR life.
Wherever he turns up, we’ll all be watching.