You might have heard a lot of talk about the Hero World Challenge this weekend. Like, more than you’ve ever heard in your life. You probably didn’t even know it was a golf tournament before now; it sounds like a contest for gladiators, or sandwich artists.
The reason this obscure event was the talk of the sporting world? It marked the return of Tiger Woods to professional golf. After a 15-month hiatus brought on by mutiple back surgeries, the former world no. 1 finally teed off in front of cameras. Early reports of Woods’ play have been positive; he even shot a bogey-free second round on Friday. But it’s one thing to perform like this against an 18-player field in a tournament Woods’ organizes himself. It’s another to do it when the field is 70 strong.
At 40 years old, the questions around Woods are no longer “will he ever catch Nicklaus?” Now, fans just want to know if they’ll ever get another glimpse of the Tiger of old. We’re curious too, and we’ve compiled some odds to help answer the question.
His last tour win was the Bridgestone Invitational back in 2013, and while the highlights from the Hero World Challenge were encouraging, it’s still unclear if he can combine it all into one great weekend. Even if he does, the PGA field has changed quite a bit since Tiger last won. Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Dustin Johnson have all emerged as true forces on tour. Woods could have a great weekend, and still not be guaranteed victory if one of them gets hot.
Even at his peak, Woods was never a high-volume golfer. He hasn’t played in 20 or more events since 2005. Now with the health of his back under constant monitoring, it’s hard to envision him pushing it to the limit next year.
Woods’ downfall really began back in 2010, but he’s still made the cut in 84-percent of the events he’s entered since then.
Woods avaeraged one withdrawal a season since 2010, but he began this season dropping out of events before his back had a chance to bother him. A sign of maturity?
As long as Tiger tees off at Augusta, this one is a lock. Woods hasn’t missed a cut at the Masters since 1996! It was his only major success during his doomed 2015 campaign (finishing tied for 17th), as he whiffed on the other three.
His iconic 2008 U.S. Open win, on essentially one leg, is already a part of golfing lore. But should Woods never turn it around, it could also be remembered as the last major championship Tiger ever won. Woods’ highest finish in a major since 2010 was tying for third at the 2012 British Open. Yet all of golf knows how dangerous he can be when he’s in reach on a Sunday. He has an intimidation factor that few others in the sport possess.
Even as he gets older, Tiger’s window will never truly be closed until he decides to put away the clubs for good. Phil Mickelson – six years his senior – still seems to challenge for a major every year. Even Tom Watson nearly won the Open Championship at 59 years old.
Ranked 897th headed into this weekend’s Hero World Challenge, you could say Woods has a little climbing to do. It’ll take a lot more than one or two flashes of old Tiger for him to recapture the World no. 1; it would take basically a whole season of domination like he was once famous for.
We’ve all dreamed of retiring young. Just calling it quits and traveling the world, playing golf. But that’s what Woods does already. Even if his back goes haywire again this year, I don’t think he’ll give up his tour card anytime soon.
Photo credit: Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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