There had been an unfortunate element of boy who cries wolf about Tiger Woods’ various attempts at a comeback in recent years. Time and again he would yell out and the local townsfolk would come running only to find no wolf, just a man bent double clutching his back. Not this time. This yell was louder, and the townsfolk came rushing to find a ravenous Tiger chomping on freshly maimed sheep.
For weeks we were teased by snippets of fast swings and reports of monstrous drives from Rickie Fowler and other practice partners, and clearly they were not just respectful compliments to a former champion. On the evidence of four apparently pain-free rounds at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, this comeback is – so far – the real deal.
It wasn’t only that Woods posted three sub-70 rounds and finished in the middle of a talented 18-man field. He did Woods-ish things, booming long drives and holing arcing putts from distance, a combination he demonstrated beautifully to claim an eagle at the par-four 7th on Sunday.
Even his anomalous third round of 75 on a wind-affected Saturday went wrong for the right reasons. At the 3rd he hit his 278-yard approach so sweetly it flew over the green; in footballing parlance Andy Townsend surely would have assessed that he hit it a bit too well if anything, Clive. As Woods put it: “I ended up in some bad spots after good shots.”
Hysteria gripped. Pundits apologised for writing him off amid reports of his tumbling odds to win next year’s Masters. The fact Fowler had won the tournament with a sensational course-record 61 barely registered.
Woods was asked: what next? “We’re going to figure out what’s the best way for me to build my schedule for the major championships – where I’m going to start, how much I’m going to play, rest periods, training cycles, the whole nine yards.” Barely three months ago he had admitted he might never play golf again. Now he has Augusta National in his sights.
If it all sounds too good to be true, then maybe it is. Firstly, the Albany Resort course is little reflection on someone’s ability to play Augusta or any other major championship venue, with friendly lunar landscape surroundings which don’t so much punish wayward drives as…