Tiger's back with a bang and I'm sat in a Mexican restaurant in Leeds
Mentally I had blocked off Thursday November 30 since Monday October 30. That was when it was announced that Tiger had invited himself, and Daniel Berger, to play in his own tournament in another comeback at the Hero World Challenge.
That will be nice and mildly mind-blowing, I thought, being able to sit down on a Thursday night and enjoy some hit-and-giggle action from the Bahamas whilst quietly scrutinising/writing off/getting carried away with every last drop of Woods’ long-awaited return to golf. Just 301 days since he made his excuses and withdrew from Dubai.
Strangely enough news of Tiger’s return hadn’t reached my wife and we were going out, just the two of us, on Thursday November 30. Given that this happens about as often as Tiger plays golf, this was a good thing.
As much as I enjoyed my 20s and early 30s watching – and betting on – wall-to-wall, blanket coverage of huge weeks like the Kemper Open dressed solely in my underpants, this was not a road I wanted to re-visit in my mid-40s. I have responsibilities these days, three of whom are three years of age and under, and, as such, I must act accordingly.
There will be other rounds, I tell myself. You’re getting better at all this. The world will keep turning even if you haven’t seen the Tshwane Open through to its climax.
Tiger’s a busted flush these days – this is me still talking to myself – and it will be another flash in the pan and then it will all be over.
But it’s Tiger. You’ve spent the past two decades writing him off at this or that and here he still is. It’s Tiger, this could be it, the opening scene of the film. This could be the start of something very special.
‘Where were you when Tiger began the Final Chapter?’
In Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana on Cardigan Road in Leeds.
Which, if you are in the area, is tremendous. I don’t know if restaurant reviews, like golf courses, stick everything that isn’t a high-street chain or a Top 100 course into the box marked ‘hidden gem’ but it was just that. The chef, an actual Mexican, gets the spices flown in from home.
And I’m in quite good spirits and behaving like a normal human being in the restaurant, beginning conversations, listening attentively, my phone is switched off and I’m relaxed.
Well, actually Tiger who I had watched in two small bursts at a speed of x30 on SkyPlus before expertly putting on the remote control breaks for any shot played by Woods.
This was all helped by the manageable 5.05pm tee time, Sky Sports’ strangely late coverage which started at 5.30, and a half-hour window while too many babies ate too many yogurts.
The second window presented itself when teeth and bedtime was squished into less than two minutes.
The general plan was to come to the action 30 minutes in arrears which would allow me to fly through any analysis by Den, Rob and Roey – and his remarkable new barnet – tear through the usual Tiger montages and bypass any shot hit by any other player though still having to pause to get my head round Matt Kuchar’s trouser-shoe combo.
The back nine could wait until after the meal by which time I will have relaxed enough to feel like I have some sort of grasp of what is going on.
And what was going was quite spectacular. For all the talk of Tiger having to learn how to throttle back and go about things a little differently on the course, here we had Tiger going close to full pelt at the driver.
There were only 28 putts. His pace was a little off but the return putts were dropping. We had the trademark fist pump as early as the 4th hole. Rewind and watch again. And again.
He was walking normally. His distance control, even in some gusts of wind, was pretty spot on. He was jazzing it back with his short irons.
Yes, there were a couple of chunky chips and a loose one off the tee at 15 but otherwise this was stellar – A+ for achievement, A+ for attitude.
It’s easy to say now, it’s Tiger, what were you expecting? But Tiger hasn’t been Tiger for years now and this, as early as it is in the comeback, was something else.
Just two months ago he said he didn’t know what his future held, he was unsure whether he would play competitive golf again and that he was up to hitting 60-yard shots.
He didn’t know whether he would be able to be a vice-captain at the Presidents Cup as he couldn’t ride in a buggy as the bouncing hurt too much.
Now look at him go. Welcome back Tiger, you’ve been missed.