How good was it to see Tiger back last weekend? It literally got the world talking about golf once again. Leading up to it was so much hype; he’d played a few practice rounds with people, all of whom had built him up as playing well. There was more talk about Tiger than there was about the 17 other guys in the field, and it’s not like these were just your regular club pros. These were 17 of the top 30 professionals in the world.
I guess the main question on everyone’s lips was “would he manage the four rounds?” Not only did he manage all four rounds, he claimed that he competed completely pain-free. Everyone has lasting images of Tiger hobbling around Torrey Pines in 2008 and still managing to win the US Open, or of his last few comebacks where he was fluffing chips and barely able to hit a golf ball or pick up his tee peg – sights very familiar to most golf club members. This kind of explains the scepticism behind his latest comeback. We’ve had all the hype before, so why would this time be different? The only thing is…it was completely different.
It’s not often you see Tiger Woods with a smile on his face. All throughout his career, he’s build up this brick wall around himself and not wanted to let anyone in. He literally was a robot, stemming from an early age and his introduction to the golfing world. In a way it wasn’t a bad thing, with the amount of media attention that comes with being the best in the world, he didn’t want the world looking in on his life or who he was. This week in the Bahamas was the complete opposite. I realise it’s a fairly relaxed event anyway, with most of those playing using this as an end of year holiday before Christmas comes (unless your name is Tommy Fleetwood, then you were using this as your stag do); but with the whole world watching and such a high quality field, it grabbed everyone’s attention and gave it a very serious and competitive feel.
The Tiger of old would have had his game face on. This week… a smiling Tiger who almost looked like he was having fun and enjoying himself. He’d got his family there who finally got to see their Dad in action for the first time in the flesh, rather than just on YouTube. He visibly had a laugh with his playing partners. Basically he played golf how us mere mortals play golf. He was playing because he loves the game.
Unfortunately, he didn’t win. But he didn’t come last either. To be fair, to finish halfway up the leader board was a great effort. The course was playing fast and tough, the wind was blowing, and the standard of golf was fantastic. Three rounds under 70 were offset by a fighting 75 that could have easily been 5 or 6 shots better. What was probably most remarkable is how hard Tiger was able to hit the golf ball. He’s never exactly been one for holding back, but during the whole time while he’s been injured, he always looked very tentative with his movements. Over the weekend he showed that his body is now able to move with that explosive pop that was there 20 years ago. The recoil even looked like it had more venom behind it. All the signs are pointing towards an exciting 2018.
THE RECOIL IS BACK!!!! pic.twitter.com/mtEfjJtDgh
— Skratch (@Skratch) December 3, 2017
Come Sunday evening, Tiger was presenting his friend Rickie Fowler with the trophy, thanks to a near-perfect closing round of 61. To be fair you could say its Tiger’s fault that Rickie won; having played a few practice rounds together, Fowler was now aware of just how well TW was playing, knowing he had to bring his A-game to Albany. Fowler is the new breed of young American golfers that are extremely talented and well drilled, however he is now falling behind his pals when it comes to wins. He’s now the only one of them not to have won a major, although he’s been so close in the past two years. Could 2018 be the year for Rickie? Or could he join the likes of Lee Westwood and be known as one of the best players to never win a major?
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 3, 2017
The year is coming to a close now with most of the top tour pros putting their clubs away in their very big garages next to their shiny Ferraris and Porsches. In the coming weeks we’ll be introducing the inaugural Bunker Awards, showcasing the top performances and stand out moments (sometimes for the wrong reasons) from the past 12 months in golf. There’ll be plenty of chance to get your opinion aired, and we’re very much open to suggestions across all social media when it comes to different categories that could be included.