Come on Tiger – stick it to the critics
Do it one more time, Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is back again, then. It all feels strangely familiar but I for one will be unable to resist, from behind the sofa, watching his first baby steps back in competition at the Hero World Challenge.
Twelve months ago, I was sitting in a bar in Skegness, of all places, as Tiger made his Bahamas comeback.
How we over-analysed every flat-pulled 3-wood, cheered all those birdies – he actually led the field in that category – and winced every time he faced a chip from a tight lie.
It will be no different this time, though hopefully he’ll be able to finish a little higher than 15th out of 17.
If you think he’ll win, a price of 33/1 is currently available and it is a mark of the man that he will not be without his takers, even though his last competitive action ended in ignominious withdrawal after an opening 77 at the Dubai Desert Classic back in February.
His most recent top 10 came in August 2015, since when he has undergone another two rounds of back surgery.
He will be 42 by the time the Masters comes round in April, and it will be all but 10 years since the last of his 14 major victories, which came at the 2008 US Open.
I was recently chatting about Tiger to a renowned coach who has spent much of the last 25 years out on the European Tour.
In relation to the series of videos Tiger has tweeted in recent weeks detailing his gradual return to golfing fitness, this coach’s question was simply: Why? As in, what does Tiger have left to prove?
It’s a good question and we can all speculate about the answer but before this generates into yet another one of those awful cod-psychology pieces that professes to offer an insight into the great man’s state of mind, I’ll settle for saying that I can’t help but think – wish might be more accurate – that he still has some golf left in him.
I don’t know what motivates Tiger but, for my part, I would absolutely love to see him prove the doubters, gloaters and naysayers wrong.
I long to watch him remind younger fans – especially – what makes him, for me and a lot of other people, the greatest player in the history of the game.
Hopefully, the Bahamas will mark the beginning of Tiger Woods’ latest comeback trail.
Casey’s back for Europe
I’ve read that Thomas Bjorn deserves the credit for Paul Casey’s potential return to Ryder Cup action after what would be a 10-year absence but I personally doubt the captain was much of a factor in his decision.
Casey was given plenty of stick for making the decision three years ago to stick on the other side of the Atlantic. That meant he was unavailable for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine because he wasn’t a member of the European Tour.
Sometimes, perhaps more often than not, these things are simpler than they appear.
At the time, Casey had just become a father for the second time. He was rebuilding his personal life following a divorce and his professional life after a mid-career slump.
It seemed a reasonable decision to me.
I still maintain that had he done something extraordinary like win a major he would have promptly rejoined the European Tour and a way would have been found to get him on the team.
As it happened, it was a non-story.
Now, with a world ranking comfortably inside the top 20 and his family life more settled, he is ready to put in the miles to earn a place on the European team. It would be for the first time, remarkably, since Valhalla in 2008.
With only one missed cut, nine top-10s and 17 top-25s on the PGA Tour last season, the 40-year-old has become a money-making machine in America. (Though incredibly, he still has only one win in America to his name, and that getting on for nine years ago.)
You would think he has every chance of making a team that looks likely to be packed with his countrymen. And that team would be the stronger for him being part of it.
Will this season ever end?
Personally, I largely lost interest in watching the world’s best this year sometime in the late summer.
Call me weird – you wouldn’t be the first – but I had more appetite for Ryan Armour’s win at the Sanderson Farms Championship last week than the WGC-HSBC Champions, despite its incredible finish.
I want to see the likes of Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson locking horns in January and February as we all get excited about the major season getting underway.
In October and November, I quite like the low-key drama of journeymen and rookies trying to make their way up the world rankings and secure their playing privileges. And Tiger Woods making comebacks (see above).
Who knows, a couple of them might hit the big time come the West Coast Swing in the New Year and I’ll have seen them first. It feels like research.
I’m not saying that the elite weren’t trying in China, but sport is only genuinely captivating when it really matters.
I don’t think you can say that is the case at this time of year in golf, which seems to be more about the very wealthy getting even richer.
Sorry, but I’ve mentally tuned out.