By Charles Jay
Could Tiger Woods make an impact on the PGA Tour again?
We are about to find out, although the road back may be a little slow.
Woods has outlined a number of tournament appearances he plans on making in the coming months; this includes the Turkish Airlines Open and the Hero World Challenge, which take place later in the year. He’ll begin the comeback trail with the Safeway Open, starting next Thursday in Napa, CA. And needless to say, there is quite the buzz in the golf world.
That’s because his presence means increased TV ratings. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. When Woods sat out the Masters in 2014, because of back surgery, the ratings were the lowest since 1993. And often-times, the story about him NOT playing has brought more attention than one about those who are.
Woods have been off for over a year because he has had additional back procedures, but he has now pronounced himself fit to go. While this may have struck fear in the hearts of competitors at one time, such is not the case now. He is in the position of having to prove himself just like everybody else, and in 18 events played over 2014 and 2015, he finished among the top 25 only four times.
Still, there is the aura, and that is what bring him a lot of support at America’s Bookie when the golf betting odds come out on the Safeway Open (formerly known as the Frys.com Open). Out of all the active players who are accomplished enough to have at least ten wins on the PGA Tour, Woods’ winning percentage far outdistances everybody else. In fact, he has won 24.2% of the time; the next player on the list is Phil Mickelson at 7.75%.
But he is now 40 years old, and although he was around a rather tense atmosphere as an assistant captain with the Ryder Cup team, he hasn’t taken a swing in competitive golf for 14 months.
Woods has not been a big factor in golf’s majors for quite some time now. The last time he won was in 2008, when he captured the third of his U.S. Open titles. As recently as 2013 he was in contention in the British Open, finishing tied for sixth.
With the FedEx Cup playoffs having concluded, and the Ryder Cup behind us, the Safeway Open is actually the start of the new season in golf, as the PGA Tour has structured it. And it starts off with a bang, because not only is Woods in the field, so is Phil Mickelson. Will they be paired together?
With these three back operations, which have happened in a period of less than two years, it is not unreasonable to say that if he got to the point where he had to go through that again, he might call it quits for good.
One of the things that Woods felt he did that was a mistake was rushing his way back onto the tour after his initial back procedure.
There have also been knee problems, in addition to the highly-publicized sex scandal and subsequent marital difficulties, and all of this has quite naturally had an effect on his focus, as has the fact that he is getting older.
But Hank Haney, his coach for six years, who has been a rather objective critic since then, believes that he could be a winner on the tour again if he was right physically and mentally, although he stopped short of saying that he thought he could continue his assault on the majors. ““He’s a 41 or 42-year-old professional athlete that has had four knee operations and three back operations and has missed five of six years of the last nine years.”
In 2014, he missed the cut in consecutive majors (the U.S. Open and British Open) for the first time in his career, so you’ve got to excuse golf bettors and others if they are not able to work up a lot of enthusiasm about him just yet.