There’s no way to “yeah…. but” it. What we saw on Thursday from Tiger Woods’ first competitive round in 300+ days was nothing short of incredible. The fluidity, the power, the ball-speed. Even the whip-recoil on one particularly lashed drive.
Most everything else was close to tournament-sharp, save for a chubbed chip here, and a badly mis-judged lag putt there. He might win this little friends-and-family outing come Sunday. If he does, then you’ll see Masters ticket prices quadruple overnight on the secondary market.
And there’s nothing wrong with getting a seat early on the Tiger Comeback Express. Should it stay on the rails, it’ll be the second greatest comeback in golf. Second only to Ben Hogan peeling himself off a hospital bed after getting flattened by a bus in a Texas fog.
It’s all improbable as hell to believe right now, given his low-point mugshot following a DUI on Memorial Day in Jupiter, Florida. Memorial Day? That was like, 2 seconds ago! I don’t even have the kids beach chairs hung up in the garage yet. And Tiger’s delivering consistent and findable ball speeds in the 180’s? He had 5 different pain killers in his system when he ran his expensive Mercedes onto the curb in the middle of Flori-nowhere! Now look at him!
Even when Tiger would leak a little baby-eight iron on social media this fall, I said: “Pffft. Okay, bud.” When it graduated to full blown stingers and drives, I said… “Yeah… I saw this movie….. LAST year!” And the past two weeks when Tour whispers were saying ludicrous things like “He’s killing it…. ” and “He looks fantastic…” I thought his fellow pros were just “fattening frogs to feed to snakes” as Coach John Thompson liked to say.
But then today…. <popping eyeball emoji>>!
Tiger in Sept: One day at a time
Tiger in Oct: I'm hitting 80-yard 9-irons
Tiger earlier this week: My back is fused
Tiger today: JT THINKS HE'S LONGER THAN ME LOL! pic.twitter.com/Eu7hQxV6YU
— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) November 30, 2017
I don’t know much about bad backs – thank god that part of me, is still working mostly as God designed – but I know many friends who unfortunately DO know about bad backs. Some of those friends said plainly: “Tiger’s done. No way. I know exactly what he has. It’s over.” But then there are guys like Rocco Mediate who told me last spring on the radio that he could fix Tiger in a second, and that he himself is living proof that even elite golfers can navigate their way around bad back injuries if they are smart and adapt.
On a macro level, I’m happy for Tiger. He seems truly elated that he’s got one last good chance to play Tour caliber championship golf in his 40’s. I always wondered if Tiger just loved winning, or if he truly loved the game. Like, Ben Crenshaw. That dude loves THE GAME. Tiger, I thought, seemed to love stepping on other players necks more than he loved the subtle design genius of a “redan style” par-3.
That said, the rational brain in my head would STILL bet heavily AGAINST him in this comeback. Not that there’s a “Will Not Win Again” line to be played. I just think that golf is now so deep with so many talented players who can go nuclear-submarine deep on any given week, that winning anything OTHER than the Masters – with it’s short field of 90+ players, softened up by amateur invites and past champions – is still a longshot.
Remember: this little tournament is not just an 18-hole world-golf-ranking bachelor weekend event. It’s also played on a tree-less tropical resort course, where you can pretty much hit it and find it everywhere. We’ll see. I’m not pulling FOR Tiger, nor am I against him. If he’s in the mix again this summer, it’ll be sure a lot more fun. But I’m a golfer, and a hopeless golf nerd.
I was watching this game religiously before he came along, and I’ll do the same once he’s finally done.
But for right now, it looks like ol’ Eldrick is going to give us something more to talk about than whomever is his new girlfriend.