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Woods return a big boost

Iain Carter | 23:39 UK time, Thursday, 19 February 2009

So, six words ended eight months of waiting: "I'm now ready to play again," said the world's best golfer, to turn TBA into Tiger Back Again.

It had been rumoured in recent weeks that the WGC Matchplay at Dove Mountain in Arizona would be the likely event to mark Tiger Woods' long awaited return to competitive golf.

Sponsorship links and the comfort of returning without the pressure of a scorecard in the back pocket were put forward as potential reasons to support the speculation.

And they are probably contributory factors, but I feel the overwhelming reason is nothing more than good timing.

The safe arrival of his second child, Charlie, on 8 February followed a successful recuperation from the anterior cruciate surgery carried out on 26 June last year.

Woods has been hitting balls since the New Year and every fellow pro who has seen him in action on the Isleworth range in Florida has been impressed by his ball striking and apparent fitness.

So the decision came down to the point at which Woods felt he was ready to not only compete, but to win. And the answer is now.

The 33-year-old never enters an event to make up the numbers. Woods will feel ready for the rigours of five rounds in four days from next Wednesday and a 36-hole final on Sunday in the Arizona desert.

Remember he is the defending champion after winning the WGC World Matchplay for the third time last year. I would expect him to play this event, then the WGC CA Championship at Doral (12-15 March) and then the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill (26-29 March).

That would add up to the perfect build-up to the Masters (9-12 April), particularly as Woods is a serial winner at both Doral and Bay Hill.

And his return is a timely boost to the credit crunched game. Golf didn't wilt in his absence, indeed it defied many expectations (mine included) in thriving in many respects.

Padraig Harrington's majors (the Open and US PGA) were thrilling, Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas, Anthony Kim and Rory McIlroy all made great strides and Vijay Singh continued to justify his elevated status in the game.

Would they have enjoyed the profile they earned had Woods been around? We'll never know, but what is sure is that it is these players who are most likely to provide his main opposition now he is back.

And they will want to test themselves against the best competitor in the game.

For the likes of Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els there was a golden opportunity to capitalise on the absence of the man who so often has been their nemesis and they failed to take advantage.

How will they react now that Woods is back? More to the point, how will the newer guys at the top of the game fare against the man who has remained at the head of the rankings throughout his eight-month absence?

These are fascinating plot lines that are pure gold for professional golf. We've glimpsed a world without Woods and it's been OK, but now the time is right for him to return and the timing for golf could not be better either.

For PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and his bank and motor-sponsored outfit, the news has been unrelentingly bad in recent months - most recently Sir Allen Stanford's troubles adding to the woes because his bank backs the Memphis tournament.

Finchem has been insisting the show goes on all over America and it does for the moment - but how long can that continue unscathed given the economic outlook?

Woods makes it easier for the PGA Tour for which crucial TV viewing figures dived in his absence.

That certainly won't be the case for the action in Arizona, as long as he survives in his comeback event.

General sports fans will rejoin the golf diehards with an attitude of relocate the remote, tune in and pass the popcorn. "Hey honey - golf's worth watching again!"

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Tiger's return is truly a breath of fresh air. Golf has been dreadfully boring in his absence. No matter how you try to justify their wins...Paddy, Sergio, Vijay, Anthony, nor Camilla had to face down.
    His return to this WGC eventlets him knock the "rust" off while competing in one of his major corporate sponsor's event. Naturally, if he does well, he adds to the legacy and if he falters no one would be surprised being his first event back. This is a good prep for Doral, Bay Hill, leading to Augusta in 6 weeks.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm very much looking forward to the return of Woods but not just to see his form on returning from injury. The prospect of a 3rd round battle between Woods and McIlroy is what I'm really hoping for and will be excited about.

    I want to see how Rory performs when Head to Head against the greatest player golf has ever seen. Despite it being Wood's 1st tournament back it will be an excellent marker for where Rory currently stands in the game and show whether he has the temperament to win majors in the near future.

  • Comment number 3.

    Iain,
    Your prescription for Tiger's future schedule looks spot-on.
    It will be interesting to see if he responds to Finchem's request for leading players to contest more events; the Tiger schedule is been rationalised ever further by the year, pared down close to the bare minimum. Not popular with his fellow pros.

    On the Stanford subject, what is going on here on these Boards? The Golf Board has been edited (the mildest verb I could think of, I could have used savaged) in an extraordinary fashion, and Mihir Bose's recent blog contains an undue volume of complaints about messages being blocked or removed.

    The Golf Board would be grateful for a response to my Dear Rob, Iain, Alex "article" yesterday.

    Meanwhile, you could also have noticed that Carolyn Bivens' LPGA Tour calendar risks being further decimated as Stanford had signed on as sponsor for their season-ending event in Houston.

    Not good times for professnal golf in the USA.

    And not good times for golf enthusiasts trying to bring spirit and substance to your site.
    rsvp.

  • Comment number 4.

    Apologies for sounding thick, but if Tiger has been out for so long, how has he remained as world #1?

    In Tennis, I believe that you gain ranking points if you improve on your result from the previous year's event. Tiger has obviously missed a few events. does he not lose ranking points?

    I'm not familiar with how the Golf world rankings work...

  • Comment number 5.

    tiger is glof. like it or lump it. the game revolves round him and we should all enjoy him for the true golf genius he is

  • Comment number 6.

    jazzboy

    golf doesn't work quite the same way as tennis in that it has a 2 year cycle instead of 1 and as Tiger was so far out in front before his injury (over double the points of No.2) its has meant he still retains his number 1 ranking

  • Comment number 7.

    I respect Tigers achievements even though I will never be a fan of his, I can see that Golf will continue to profit by Tigers presence.

    I am excited to see the new guns like Villegas, Kaymer, Mc Ilroy, Kim and this japanese wonder boy challenging Tiger over the next 3-5 years.

  • Comment number 8.

    Graet to see Tigger back.............I know it requires both players winning 2 games each, but wouldn't a third roung Tiger/McIlroy game be worth watching...........

  • Comment number 9.

    " Im not a Fan of Tiger woods" i don't think i have ever heard anybody say that...And why would they he was blest with a gift and worked hard at his profession to become the greatest of all time.
    Delighted to see Tiger back he brings such excitment and energy to the course. He expects 100% from himself every time he plays, it's great to see a sports icon put pressure on himself to succeed.

  • Comment number 10.

    Return of the Tiger - if he can beat others playing with a broken ligament and leg, then it won't take him long to sweep up again. Padraig Harrington's run of majors is over!

  • Comment number 11.

    These are the 'good old days' of golf again, with Tiger back, 48-year-old Kenny Perry winning tournaments, Harrington working his magic, Monty named as captain, Singh playing with his wonderful grace, Freddy Couples about to hit the Champions Tour, the European Tour players as a group playing great and providing colorful personalities to follow...let's enjoy it all while we can.

    I wish I had been around to see Hogan play at his prime, and have childhood memories of being glued to the tube watching Palmer, Nicklaus, Trevino et al thrill the crowds. I had to break myself as an adult of the childhood habit of trying to emulate Palmer's unique swing--only he could pull it off.

    If anyone has the opportunity to see Woods play in person, go! And take the kids with you, they will appreciate you for it as they look back.


  • Comment number 12.

    Tiger's absence may have hit US TV viewing figures but I am not sure why that is a concern to the BBC. Indeed the USA at last won the Ryder Cup (in recent times) without their hero. His return is undoubtedly good for golf but not crucial, he could retire tomorrow and the game would continue.
    I know many journalists like to consider themselves "fans with typewriters" (or computers these days) but sometimes they appear more like the guy with the sandwich board proclaiming "the end of the world is nigh"
    One of these days they will get it right.

 

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