Tiger Woods stirs 2024 hopes as unlikely comeback shows promise…………See Fans Reactions

Encouraging return at the Hero World Challenge raises prospect of 15-time major champion being a force next year

 

Arecent victory in a high school golf event for Charlie Woods felt like it would accelerate a changing of the guard. The 14-year-old has made quiet but steady progress in the sport where his father, Tiger, has iconic status. It will be easier for the golf world to accept the departure of Woods Sr from mainstream competition if the prospect of his son taking on the mantle is a realistic one.

Characteristically, Tiger has other ideas. His return at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas has been his most encouraging since the car accident of early 2021 that threatened far more than his career. By the time Woods cut short his visit to Augusta National in April, it felt as if professional closure was finally upon us. There seemed little point in Woods placing his body through the most severe strain without being able to complete 72 holes. He was not seen between April and November.

What Woods has said at the Albany resort has been as striking as how he has hit the ball. He has a best case scenario target of playing once a month in 2024. This plan arrives not only through the realisation that he cannot expect to be competitive if inside the ropes so infrequently, but that his body could withstand this kind of schedule. It would be pointless to float this vision for next year without the genuine belief it could happen. This comeback feels like it has substance.

“You can simulate all you want at home and I had it the best I possibly can,” Woods said. “We played a lot of money matches at home and tried to simulate it but it’s just different. The mind’s racing more, the anxiety, the emotions are just different out here than at home. You can always drop a ball at home, no big deal. Here it’s going to cost you. Putting pen and paper together, it’s just a little bit different.”

Woods will want to feature in the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles in February. His closeness to Hero, now also the sponsors of the Dubai Desert Classic, means he will surely have the option to begin the year in the Middle East in January should he so desire. Whether the 47-year-old fancies the journey from Florida is another matter.

The Players Championship and Masters take care of March and April respectively. A further three majors follow in May, June and July. Taking part in an Olympics is one of the few things missing from Woods’s CV; those organising the Games would be giddy at the notion of the 15-time major champion donning US colours in early August. Should Woods qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs he could in theory keep playing until the end of that month but that is a tough ask on a limited schedule. A playing run between February and July would constitute success.

ankle fusion, Woods’s latest surgery, has resolved his bone-on-bone ankle pain. His walk is still pronounced but his movement looks generally fine. Woods’s swing is perfectly poised and controlled. Putting problems have been visible in the Bahamas – and few improve on the greens when approaching their fifties – but such issues can affect those who play all the time.

“My ankle really has no mobility any more,” he said. “I can’t drive my knee like I used to and I can’t twist like I used to because my back is fused. There’s just a lot of things I can’t do. But it is not like I’ve made any major swing changes or I’ve tried to make any changes. I just let my body tell me what I need to do.”

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