Is 2017 Tiger Woods’ year?
Heading into the 2017 season, there are a lot of question marks surrounding Tiger Woods. After a relatively successful comeback at the Hero World Challenge at the end of last year, is he back or isn’t he?
Can we expect him to go on to add to his tally of 14 Majors and 79 PGA Tour titles? Will he be able to play a full schedule of events? Or will his body break down again?
It was with all those questions in mind that a record TV audience sat down to watch Tiger’s latest comeback in the Bahamas. One thing that is sure is that Tiger remains the biggest draw by far. That much was clear simply by looking at the size of the TV audience for what was basically a charity exhibition.
On the first day, that audience was the biggest for a first round in an individual event since the opening round at the Open at Royal Troon and they kept coming back for more, with the total figure for the four days showing an increase of 154 per cent over the previous year, when Tiger didn’t play.
But what did we all learn? Not a lot, I would suggest. In trying to make sense of it all, the first thing that should be said is that Woods did much better than many of us though he would do after a spell of 466 days away from competitive action.
In the second round, he fired a fabulous 65 which quite rightly left the commentators and his fans purring with delight. Over the four days he also led the field with 24 birdies which suggests that his putting was considerably more solid than during his previous comeback a couple of years ago.
Tiger was once the best clutch putter in world golf, arguably better even than Jack Nicklaus in his prime. In his hey-day, he was also a great chipper and pitcher, a skill he seemed to lose just before his latest hiatus from the game.
Back then, he was often reduced to putting from as much as 30 yards from off the green. In the Bahamas, he never resorted to that. He did chunk a couple but also played more than enough good ones to suggest he is back on track in that area of his game.
Watching the telecast, it was clear Woods has not lost any of his desire or self confidence but is the latter misplaced? Was it just rustiness that caused him to hit shot after shot to the left? Or is there something fundamentally wrong with his swing?
There appears to be a wide divergence of opinion as far as that is concerned. Several respected gurus, including Butch Harmon, Hank Haney and Sean Foley, all of whom coached Woods at one time or another, gave it the thumbs up but Golf Channel analyst, Brandel Chamblee, who, since leaving the tour has written a seminal work on the golf swing entitled The Anatomy of Greatness: Lessons from the Great Golf Swing in History, highlighted several problems which may have serious long-term repercussions.
“The golf swing from face on may look good but when you look at it much, much closer and pay attention to what his right elbow is doing, it cannot drag behind you without (you) making a number of compensating moves that make the golf swing very reliant on timing and flipping,” Chamblee opined.
“In addition to his elbow dropping behind him, his right hip is not moving towards the target as he comes into impact. It’s moving up, which in my opinion will further exacerbate the problem with his back,” he added.
If Chamblee is correct, that might well scupper any chance Woods has of making a successful return because the one thing not even the player himself knows is whether his battered 41-year-old body can withstand the rigours of playing regular competitive golf again.
So, what are the answers, I hear you ask? Can Tiger win again? Maybe, just maybe. Can he claim another major? Probably not, I’m afraid, which is a shame because in its current state the game needs him more than ever.