Let the Madness begin.
Eldrick-mania is back.
The man who spent 683 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world, Tiger Woods, returns to professional golf.
Tiger Woods, now ranked 1,199 in the world, begins the long road back starting Thursday down in the friendly confines of Albany Resort in the Bahamas.
This is where his 2016 comeback began. It didn’t last long.
Hopefully this one will.
In case you haven’t been reading or listening, various websites along with The Golf Channel have used the two-magic words given to us by Woods about 150,000 times in the past month.
Those two words have given a mountain of hope to the Tiger Woods Minions, who still long for “That Guy.”
“That Guy” was the one who won 14 majors. “That Guy” won 79 tournaments. “That Guy” dominated the competition for more than a decade. “That Guy” made every clutch putt he looked at.
But what about “This Guy?”
“This Guy” will be 42-years-old at the end of the month, a lot older than “That Guy.”
“This Guy” has had so many surgeries, it’s easy to lose count.
“This Guy” hasn’t won a major in 10 years, hasn’t won a tournament in four years.
“This Guy” finished 15th in this Hero World Challenge last year. That was out of a field of 17.
So what can realistically be expected from “This Guy?”
If you listen to the swing analysts on The Golf Channel, Tiger’s swing is better than it ever was.
If you listen to what Brad Faxon told everyone last week, Tiger’s driving it past D.J. Note Faxon failed to tell us how many birdies Woods made in the outing with President Trump the day after Thanksgiving. No one is talking about his putting.
And that’s where this comeback thing gets testy.
Fact is players don’t become better putters past the age of 40. Tiger Woods made more putts than anyone in his heyday, back when he was “That Guy.” Yeah, “That Guy” made virtually everything he looked at.
No telling how many eyeballs will be on Woods this week. Surprised The Golf Channel’s Tiger Tracker hasn’t been switched on yet to let us know what Woods had for lunch in the Albany clubhouse.
Ratings should be astronomical.
Woods still moves the needle. “That Guy” moved it a whole lot, not sure “This Guy” will, especially if he can’t make 36-hole cuts when things get serious during the regular season at some tougher courses.
Tiger Woods is good for golf, always has been.
But what will Tiger Woods have to accomplish to keep himself interested in playing?
Can he stand being out there without winning?
Can he stand being out there without being in one of the final three groups on Sundays?
Can he be content to show up and be just another guy trying to finish in the Top 20?
Might be safe to say that Tiger’s expectations are a lot lower than those of his legions of fans.
People have to remember that “This Guy” isn’t “That Guy.”
They have to remember that basically, he’s fortunate to be back at all.
Woods knows it and expressed it:
“I just don’t know and that’s tough to live with. It’s been a struggle for years,” he said. “To finally come out on the good side of it, it’s exciting. I am stiffer, I’m fused. But I don’t have the pain and if I don’t have the pain, life is so much better.”
And at the end of the day, it’s all about a better life for Tiger, not necessarily a better golf game.
Thursday Tee Times/Pairings:
11:10AM ET: Hideki Matsuyama, Francesco Molinari
11:21AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Kevin Chappell
11:32AM ET: Patrick Reed, Daniel Berger
11:43AM ET: Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood
11:54AM ET: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren
12:05PM ET: Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods
12:16PM ET: Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka
12:27PM ET: Kevin Kisner, Rickie Fowler
12:38PM ET: Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth