People tried to temper expectations for Tiger Woods‘ big return at the 2017 Hero World Challenge.
Tried is the key word there.
And then, Tiger, a man who dominated this game for so long, and in a fashion that we will likely never see again, started making birdies in the first round. Early on in the day, Tiger Woods is back chants started taking over (well, at least on social media).
To make a long story short, Tiger put in an impressive performance at the Hero World Challenge, a performance that saw him shoot under par in every round but one, and now everyone is wondering what is in store for 2018.
Could 2018 be a potential redemption year for Tiger?
Will Tiger win a major in 2018?
Will he actually break Jack Nicklaus‘ majors records?
After taking these questions off the shelf for quite some time — because it didn’t appear Tiger would ever be the same again from a golf standpoint, and it didn’t even look like he would make a return to the game given the fact that he has dealt with so many injuries and surgeries — all of the Tiger questions have been placed right where they belong … right back on the shelf.
So … is the old Tiger back?
People can answer that question however they would like, but here’s the truth: No one knows.
While he looked solid in his big return (he finished in a tie for ninth place in a field of 18 that featured some of the best golfers in the world), it remains to be seen how Tigers’ health will withstand a few more tournaments, and especially a full year back in competitive golf. Not only that, but Tiger is 41 years old (he turns 42 on Dec. 30), he hasn’t won a major since 2008 and winning a major is no easy feat.
With all of that said, we would like to think the old Tiger is back, and we hope he smashes the majors record. We hope he returns to glory, and finds himself back at the top of the world rankings, a place he is so familiar with. We hope all of the setbacks are a thing of the past, and we hope Tiger, the most dominant golfer of all time, is back.
We just don’t know, though.
We do know this: Tiger is going to be the most talked about person in the golf world, and he is going to dominate the headlines…
Here’s what ESPN’s Jason Sobel had to say about Tiger:
Now, we all get it: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. We’ve been in these situations before, where Woods appears ready to tackle a full schedule, only to injure himself again.
And so as much as anyone wants to scream “Tiger is back!” from the rooftops, that notion comes with a healthy dose of cautious optimism. We’d like to believe that he’ll compete at Torrey Pines next month, site of eight career professional victories. We’d like to think he’ll be at Riviera, again as a tournament host. And then PGA National and Bay Hill, his first appearance at the latter since the death of one of his mentors, Arnold Palmer.
We’d like to know all of that is true, leading directly into the Masters, where maybe — just maybe — an older Tiger could show his young buddies a thing or two.
The dream scenario is easy to envision — a back-nine leaderboard chock full of 20-something superstars, their names interrupted by a 42-year-old seeking his fifth career green jacket.
Even Woods understands what this would mean for the game.
“It would be fun,” he said Sunday. “It would be a lot of fun for me and I think it would be a lot of fun for them. The camaraderie has been incredible. For them to pick up the phone and for them to text me a lot and call me a lot to try and get me out there playing. … ‘Let’s play today, let’s play tomorrow, let’s play the next day.’ They want me to compete, they want me to come back. They’re doing everything they can to help me out.”
This is a new Tiger. He’s humble, he smiles, he thanks his fellow players. He tells dad jokes and busts guys’ chops for needing a haircut.
He also owns a little more perspective on his role. He’s one of the older guys now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still turn back the clock.
Like he says, Father Time is undefeated. But Woods is still trying to give him a good match on the back nine.
As long as Tiger can stay healthy, he will, more likely than not, win another major … and quite possibly in 2018, might I add.
That is the big “if” right now, though — staying healthy.
This might be a different version of Tiger than we have seen in the past, but as long as he stays pain-free, this version of Tiger is more than good enough to win another major or two, or at the very least compete for majors.
No one is really dominating the golf world right now, although Rickie Fowler came to play at the Hero World Challenge, and Justin Thomas put on a show in 2017, which means Tiger could, realistically, climb up the rankings and compete in tournaments in no time.
With that in mind, no one has ever dominated like Tiger, which is why so many people still believe he can be the best golfer in the game right now, even after enduring so many setbacks and not winning the important one (aka a major) in what feels like a lifetime.
As so many fans will likely agree, it was nice to see Tiger out on the golf course again. It was nice to see him compete, especially against names like Dustin Johnson, Fowler, Jordan Spieth and so many others. Hopefully we get to witness that for many years to come.
In terms of 2018, everyone will have a more clear idea once Tiger plays more tournaments, and especially after he plays in a major.
If his Hero World Challenge performance is any indication of what is to come in 2018, then Tiger is going to win (or at the very least compete) in some tournaments in the very near future.
Time, as always, will tell.