DURBAN – He’s back. His back He’s back!
Not for the first time, the curiosity of the sporting world is at this point, watching and waiting to see just which Tiger will emerge from the shadows. For weeks, Eldrick Woods has teased us with clips of his reconstructed swings.
First, he was chipping. The world shrugged, because that action places little strain on the back. Then, he hit towering irons, which raised an eyebrow.
Could he? Surely not, especially when he spent much of the President’s Cup suggesting that the end may have already come, and he was proud of what he had already done in the game.
Finally, the fabled ‘stinger’ appeared in super slow-motion.
Even the sceptical sat up, because Tiger was seldom in the woods with ‘that shot’; that laser-like beam that torches down fairways and sets up the towering irons, which led to birdies and fist-pumps.
It’s a game-plan which took the now 41-year-old to untouchable levels, seemingly destined for golfing immortality.
We all know that he took a few immoral off-ramps, which diverted that seemingly inevitable charge through the history books to that most American of titles; G.O.A.T.
There will always be debate about quite what defines greatness, but few can argue that Woods has had the greatest impact on the game.
He has taken it into living rooms where the word golf didn’t even exist, and he has inspired millions to pick up a club and ‘Tiger-line’ one.
Indeed, the current crop of American superstars all probably had a Tiger poster on their walls at some point, or at least donned the Sunday red in salute to their idol.
They pumped iron at the gym, because that was the Tiger way. Loathe him or like him, Woods’ reach is as long as the bombs he used to unleash from the tee-box in his prime.
McIlroy, Matsuyama, Day, Spieth all from different corners of the earth, but all drawn closer to the game by one word: Tiger. It’s no wonder that there has been a froth of anticipation at his latest return.
This time, it seems he has taken a leaf out of his great mate Roger Federer’s book, and waited for his body to tell him that it has healed.
Maybe he will adjust his game; be more about poise and precision, and less about power. Truth be told, there is no pain quite like back pain for a sportsman or woman who relies on rotation to get power and speed through the ball.
For those who still wonder if Woods faked the severity of his injuries and overplayed the pain, maybe ask Faf du Plessis how it feels when your foundation collapses on you.
It’s crippling, and some never quite recover. Woods has led us to believe that he is 100% again, and that is a great thing for the game of golf.
Federer and Woods used to go head-to-head for Major titles, and the smart money was always on Woods to end on top, by virtue of golf being a longer career. He even joked about it.
So much for that logic. Though they both found global adulation, Woods mixed his with lashings of adultery.
Maybe, just maybe, he occasionally looks at the simplicity that is Federer’s life, and winces at the folly of his ways in the still of many a night away from home.
But that is Tiger the man. Tiger the ex-husband, and Tiger the father, who now shares custody.
He has his kids to explain all that too. We are only concerned about Tiger the golfer, and wondering what highs – or, indeed, what lows – he could hit in his latest comeback.
Even though the 2017 season is in its autumn, hope will spring eternal when he tees it up in December. That is the Tiger effect. He is back.