Column: Even a little tiger is better than no tiger at all

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) – The only certainty about Tiger Woods is that he won’t be playing a lot of golf, and…

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) – The only certainty about Tiger Woods is that he won’t play much golf, and that’s if he decides it’s worth trying to climb a mountain higher than all the previous ones.

“Making progress,” he wrote to accompany a video of his swing he posted on Twitter two weeks ago.

“I’m so far from that,” he said on Tuesday of facing Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy in the biggest events on the toughest golf courses.

Woods walked into the hall at Albany Golf Club without a noticeable limp as he stepped onto the stage and took a seat behind a microphone. He left the stage a little more carefully and recognized that his leg and back hurt just sitting there.

“We all want to see him again. We all want to see him healthy and play like the Tiger Woods we’ve seen for 20 years, ”said Harris English.

Those days were fading with age, and they’re likely gone due to a badly damaged right leg in a car crash in suburban Los Angeles about 10 months ago. Woods mentioned the possibility of an amputation early in his hospitalization.

It’s a slow comeback before he can even think of going up.

There is so much gossip about the Masters in April, ignoring the fact that Augusta National could be the most difficult course to ride of all the tournaments it participates in. Woods has said he would like to return to the British Open in St. Andrews, where the steepest climb crosses the Swilcan Bridge.

Woods has ruled out being a full-time player, and the argument can be made that he was already heading in that direction. He only played 13 events on the PGA Tour in 2019, the last time he was in good health and the world was not in the grip of a pandemic.

The best-case scenario is a majors-driven timeline, similar to that of Ben Hogan in the 1950s after his near-fatal car crash. Hogan was 37 when he won the US Open in 1950. Woods will be 46 at the end of next month.

Would it be enough to satisfy his legion of fans that he only plays a few tournaments a year?

The short answer is yes. Because even a little tiger is better than no tiger at all.

“The PGA Tour is in such a great place with these young guys. Tiger is only going to help attract more fans to the game when he plays, ”English said. “We haven’t had it since last year and it’s going really well. He has brought us to where we are. Anytime he can play it only adds interest and intrigue and puts golf in the national media. “

Abraham Ancer could become a footnote in history as the last player to face Woods in match play. It was Sunday in singles at Royal Melbourne in the 2019 Presidents Cup, and Woods hit the ball as hard as he has all year and won on the 16th hole.

In a loss, it was a special memory for Ancer.

“I was happy to have been able to experience it at a high level in a high pressure game. It was cool for me and I learned a lot,” said Ancer.

Equally memorable was the first time Ancer played in the same tournament as Woods, at Torrey Pines in 2018, and he found himself in the squad behind him starting the final round on the last nine. Ancer remembered seeing “chaos”.

“Every time Tiger shows up at an event it’s completely different no matter how he plays,” said Ancer. “He transforms events.

Think about what is now the John Deere Classic, a sleepy Midwestern tournament until Woods made his third event as a pro in 1996 and had a chance to win. The Quad Cities golf community has been buzzing ever since, although Woods never returned.

Woods made an appearance at the Valspar Championship, and the gallery stood 12 rows deep around some of the tees. He finished a shot behind. The Innisbrook crowd remains robust. Some who have been there for the first time must have liked what they saw.

“Anyone who has moved the needle so much or changed the game so much, to continue to be a part of the game, will bring people in,” said Xander Scheatele. “Whether it’s once, two or three times a year, there’s just one level of excitement. I had the chance to play with him a few times. I can see what he is doing to people and places.

It is the concept of a rising tide lifting all ships, and there is no tide like Tiger Woods.

The first step is to put it back in the water, and that’s no easy task.

He’s followed a similar path before, including the progress he’s made from four back surgeries in three years. He played tournaments (Valspar), then majors (British Open in Carnoustie, PGA Championship in Bellerive) then he won the Masters.

“I don’t see this type of trend developing for me,” said Woods, another sobering comment at his press conference. “I will not have the opportunity to train given the condition of my leg and my strengthening. I do not do it. I’ll just have a different way of doing it and that’s okay and I’m fine with that. I have made the climb enough times.

At this point, no one should be looking for another Mount Everest. They just want to see Tiger, if only for a little while.

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