“Rolling back the years…”
“The GOAT is back…”
Just three of the phrases used to described Tiger Woods’ second round at last year’s Hero World Challenge.
To remind you, the 14-time major champion had just shot a bogey-free, seven-under-par 65 and, to put it mildly, it sent social media into meltdown.
It was understandable. After all, it was only Woods’ second round of competitive golf after close to 16 months out through injury.
But what has happened since that round – almost a year ago to the day – is a perfect example of why Woods’ performance in the Bahamas this week is of little importance. In fact, it’s irrelevant.
Take a look at the tournament. The Hero World Challenge is effectively a holiday event – the perfect place for players to wind down ahead of the break in PGA Tour proceedings over the festive period. “It feels like a week off,” said Justin Rose yesterday.
And when the wind doesn’t blow, Albany Golf Course gets torn apart. In 2015, Bubba Watson won on 25-under-par and three other players finished at 20-under-par or lower.
Compare that to Torrey Pines. Only three players finished at ten-under-par or lower at the Farmers Insurance Open last year and, at a course Woods has won at a record seven times, he comfortably missed the cut in his first ‘official’ PGA Tour start back with rounds of 76 and 72.
What is far more relevant is what Woods decides to do after this week, as he must learn from the mistakes of his botched comeback last time out.
Woods, quite ridiculously, committed to four events within the space of five weeks in January and February – the first of which was the Farmers Insurance Open.
“It’s a concern, no doubt about it,” said Woods of his schedule at the time. “But I’m also looking forward to it. I’ve sat out long enough.”
Of course, we all know what happened next. Woods flew halfway round the world to compete in the second of those four events in Dubai and withdrew after a five-over-par 77 in the opening round with back spasms.
The last sentence of Woods’ quote, about sitting out long enough, smacks of impatience that he cannot afford to have in his comeback this time around.
Spinal fusion surgery, which Woods underwent in April, is deemed to be ‘last chance saloon’ in terms of procedures that can be done to alleviate pain in the back.
The 41-year-old will likely know this, which is why he must plan his forthcoming schedule with care – even if that amounts to just one event per month for his first season back on tour.
In teeing it up this week, Woods is easing his way back into competitive golf and merely ticking boxes in terms of raising the profile of the Hero World Challenge, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. That’s worked, with Golf Channel commissioning an hour’s extra live coverage of the tournament on Thursday and Friday.
While it's fantastic to have Woods back competing, let's save judgements on his performance until when he gets back into the 'real', full-field PGA Tour action at the start of next year.