It’s easy to get carried away by a Tiger Woods comeback.
And social media has made it easier than ever. I’ll hold my hands up and say that, even yesterday, I was guilty of getting onboard the Tiger Woods hype train.
Watching a video on Twitter uploaded by the PGA Tour showing Woods birdieing his first hole in yesterday’s Farmers Insurance Open pro-am after a simply sumptuous second shot had me thinking, ‘This is it’.
As well as that, the PGA Tour posted videos to its 1.6m Facebook followers and 2m Twitter followers that Woods finished eagle-birdie. Impressive, eh? So he looked that good he must have finished five-, six-, even seven-under-par? Not quite.
What the PGA Tour account didn’t tell you was that Woods, in fact, finished two-under-par (the one-under-par in the tweet below is a mistake), with the 42-year-old hitting six of 14 fairways and seven of 18 greens.
Stats aren’t necessarily pretty, but trust me when I say his misses weren’t off by much — a few yards here or there. That’s why his score was still decent.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) January 24, 2018
It’s easy to be consumed by the good and great of what’s presented to us on social media and dismiss the reality. And I get why it's done. Woods is comfortably still golf’s biggest draw and the PGA Tour is uploading content it believes will get the most engagement.
But those videos, combined with archived clips of brilliance from the 42-year-old at Torrey Pines – where he’s won eight times including the 2008 US Open – means it’s understandable why there’s hysteria and an impression is generated that he’ll hit the ground running.
That's why it's important to detach ourselves from that and think of the bigger picture.
Let’s just remember: Woods is far from tournament ready. He’s played just three ‘official’ rounds since August 2015. Two of those were at last year’s Farmers Insurance Open – where he missed his first ever cut at Torrey Pines in 16 events there.
And this comeback replicates the promise of last year where, during the 2016 Hero World Challenge, Woods sent social media into meltdown after a bogey-free, seven-under-par 65 in the second round. We all know what happened two months later.
Admittedly, many people who have witnessed Woods up close recently say, ‘This time it’s different’ and, as he acknowledged himself, he hasn’t felt this good in years after his spinal fusion surgery. But as 2016/17 proved, Torrey Pines is a far cry from Albany Golf Course.
A positive, though, is that unlike recent comeback attempts, Woods has realistic aims, even if many of his millions of fans have been unable to hold themselves back.
“My expectations have tempered a little bit because I haven't played,” he said yesterday. “I haven't played a full schedule since 2015. It's been a long time. I just want to start playing on the Tour and getting into a rhythm of playing a schedule again.”
So, what would constitute success for Woods this week? First and foremost, it should be to play 36 holes pain-free and. If he ends up playing the weekend, fantastic.
As anticipation builds, let’s just be thankful that we’re able to see Tiger back in his natural habitat. For a while, it looked highly unlikely that would ever happen again.