It’s more than 22 years since we played against each other in Wales in the Walker Cup. We are by no means friends but golf very occasionally brings us together and usually a friendly reciprocated smile, a quiet laugh about old times and pleasantries play out. Usually… Tiger is “focused” and seems to be making minimum contact with anyone. Easy to criticise but we don’t really know where he is mentally given all the trials and tribulations of recent years.
This week we are reacquainted here at Albany during The Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, a PGA Tour event that Tiger hosts. The Tiger Woods Foundation is the charity associated with the event.
This week has all been about the return of the Golfing Messiah that is Tiger Woods and the interest of course is whether or not this latest golfing comeback will be physically blemish free. Watching on the range has been If Friday’s 69 and yesterday’s 68 are anything to go by it would appear he is over his physical troubles. A front nine of 31 yesterday was hugely impressive.
My late coach Bob Torrance often said that “he’s going to have to modify his swing to prolong his career”. He often pointed out “flaws” in Tiger’s swing that he was convinced would cause issues later. I think most of us doubted Bob’s words.t
I’m not sure Tiger ever really got the chance to spend much time talking swing with Bob but like every student Bob worked with, Tiger would have learned a lot. More than anything he taught in a way that allowed mental toughness and trust to be subconsciously built. “The only reason you practise is to trust your swing under pressure,” he said.
Can Tiger perhaps deal with not being the longest and be under control? After two days there is definitely a sense of a real hunger and focus.
With so much pressure on every step he takes, every swing he makes and every word he utters, the attention is through the roof again. Will Tiger be able to return to the deep focused golfer that we saw in the early 2000s? A golfer who was so deeply engrossed in his golf shots and not his swing. A golfer who only prepared to win and most often did. If in fact he is totally pain free and feeling so good then there is every chance we will see winning golf return.
No golfer lasts forever. Tiger has had a two-year rest and is still only 42 in late December but he hasn’t won a major since 2008.
We know that form is temporary and class is permanent. But with everything he has gone through physically – and let’s not forget mentally, which is so often in Tiger’s case overlooked – it will be interesting to see whether he can regain the consistent form to which we became complacently accustomed.
Our lives 22 years on couldn’t be further apart. Tiger lives in the Bahamas, I live near Balmaha. However, this great game very occasionally and for very different reasons briefly brings us together again. I’ll take Balmaha but I’m also grateful to be here inside the ropes to watch closely a true golfing legend start his quest for a return to the winners circle. Inspirational role model? Not so sure. Excellent tournament host? Not so sure. Gracious and thankful to those who support him and his foundation still? Not so sure. A golfing legend who could return to the top of the game? Absolutely possible.