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Tiger Woods hopes to find his roar again, one meticulous step at a time


There were no scintillating low scores over the four rounds. There were no long putts or rationale-defying recovery shots which went viral on social media. In fact, he was never even in contention for a top-five finish, let alone winning the tournament.

But all things considered, Tiger Woods ticked the right boxes at the Hero World Challenge in Nassau, Bahamas. Playing his first tournament in nearly eight months after undergoing a subtalar fusion procedure in his ankle, Woods’ primary aim was to last the full 72 holes. On this count, it was mission accomplished.

Woods walked the course with no noticeable limp or pain. Yes, there was soreness at the end of each round, but this is expected given his age and the toll that multiple injuries have taken on his body.

No frills

He did not take much time lining up his shots — an encouraging sign that the mind is functioning without clutter. Woods, who will turn 48 at the end of the month, showed that while he is not quite the world beater of his heyday, he is far from a spent force.

For the crowds at Albany golf course — albeit small in number — there was only one show in town. Woods had the strongest contingent of followers, while the likes of World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and others had to be content with the company of a few family members and friends.

Woods (82 PGA Tour event titles) is tied with Sam Snead for most PGA Tour wins. With time, Woods will gain the belief that all it takes is one good week to lay his hands on yet another trophy. He can then bask in the glory as the lone man on the highest peak. Just one week of good golf. His par-288 overall score at Albany, which saw him finish 18th in a field of 20, can be viewed as the first step in that path.

Woods was happy to get back on the course and feel that competitive drive. “I was curious just like you guys (media) to see what this tournament is going to look like. With the way my ankle is right now, I was excited to get through each and every day and to start piecing rounds together. It was fun to feel that again,” Woods said.

Sweet and sour

Woods took comfort from the fact that the excruciating ankle pain, which forced him to pull out of the Masters in April, was no longer a bother. “I don’t have the bone pain that I did. But I still have to go through the same protocols of recovery, which takes a long time. That’s the unfortunate thing about ageing.

“I’ve worn my body out while trying to keep up with the younger people. You spend more time in the treatment and weight rooms than you do on a golf course. That’s just part of wanting to hang around as an athlete,” Woods said.

There were moments at Albany which provided a glimpse of the marauding Woods of old. None better than the tee off in the first hole of the invitational event where Woods crushed a 326-yard drive onto the middle of the fairway. His playing partner Justin Thomas, on the other hand, hit it out of bounds and took a penalty drop.

“I drove it on pretty much a string all week. Granted, these fairways are big. I had my ball speed up, which was nice. And I was hitting the middle of the face the entire week. So it’s not like I have to go and try and find something new over the next few weeks or in the next year. What I’ve been working on is right there,” Woods said.

Work in progress

There is, of course, plenty of room for improvement. Woods admitted that his putting was not up to the mark. “I would say my short game could be better. But everybody here says the same thing — it’s one of the most difficult golf courses. We have to chip the ball up with the holes running away from you.

“It’s tough. We use the 3-wood, 4-iron, 5-wood, hybrid. We were also talking about using the pitching wedge instead of a 60 (60-degree wedge). These are all weird things that we don’t normally see, right? It’s normally just a lob wedge to hack it out, but this is a different golf course around the greens,” Woods explained.

Heading into the New Year, Woods wants to play one tournament a month. This could be tough, but Woods is confident that his body is up to the task.

“Having a couple of weeks off to recover, and a week to build up — there’s no reason why I can’t get into that rhythm. It’s just a matter of getting into better shape. My game is not that far off, but I need to get into better shape,” Woods said.

Off the course, Woods has taken on a major new role. A few months ago, Woods joined the Tour Policy Board as the sixth player director. As a respected senior statesman, Woods will look to voice the concerns of players as the PGA Tour aims to merge with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the DP World (European) Tour and the LIV Golf League.

Woods’ involvement has come as a boon for his peers, with the likes of Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and others praising the 15-time Major winner for stepping up to the plate.

The Tour’s merger announcement, which took place in June, caught most players by surprise. Woods was unhappy that players were not taken into confidence before the decision was made.

“I was surprised, and I’m sure a lot of the players were taken aback by what happened. It happened so quickly without any input or any information. We will take steps going forward to ensure that players are not going to be left out of the process again. This was part of the reason for putting me on the board,” Woods said.

There is a deadline in place — December 31 — for working out all details of the merger. Woods will take the lead when it comes to ensuring that the players get a fair representation in the deal.

“All the parties are talking and we’re aggressively working on trying to get a deal done. We are all trying to make sure that the process is better as well. We want to get the deal done, while making sure it’s done the right way,” Woods said.

(The writer was in Nassau on invitation from Hero MotoCorp)

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