This week sees Tiger Woods make his first start on the PGA Tour in 522 days, as the Farmers Insurance Open takes place at Torrey Pines Golf Club, California.
Regardless of the many stellar names in the field, the 14-time major winner will be the main draw as he takes the next step in his quest to reclaim his spot amongst the world’s best golfers.
It's still hard to believe a guy that once did this would find himself outside of the world's top 500:
With the bullish comments this week of fellow major winner Ernie Els, the likelihood of Tiger adding to his haul of major championships has, once again, come into sharp focus.
The South African is of the belief that Woods certainly still has the tools to pick up another major now that he is in the ‘forty club’ and, in doing so, edge ever closer to the 18 wins of Jack Nicklaus.
Most important, though, will be that Woods can gradually rebuild his confidence to a point where he can be seen as a regular threat to the best players in the modern game. At present, the idea of winning golf tournaments seems premature and the main aim in San Diego this week must be to make sure he is around for the weekend.
There have been many positive noises coming out of the Woods camp, with the man himself feeling that he is healthy and raring to go. In terms of his overall play, at his own foundation’s Hero World Challenge in December he recorded the most number of birdies over the four days – though he did also post the most double-bogeys. Amongst that day was this near ace:
Eradicating the fragility of a newly constructed swing, and smoothing the rough edges created by general competitive rustiness, will take plenty of time. While there is unlikely to be any immediate return to form, four tournaments in the next five weeks provide the perfect platform for Tiger to feel his way back into Tour golf.
Greatest of all time?
While many believe Woods to be the most talented golfer to have graced the game, taking that next step to becoming the undisputed GOAT (Greatest Of All-Time) will require that he cuts into the four major deficit between he and the ‘Golden Bear.
His first opportunity for closing that gap comes at the Masters on April 6th in Augusta, Georgia. Having donned the ‘Green Jacket’ on four previous occasions, Woods will have history on his side as he attempts to harness the magical memories of tournaments gone-by in his quest for his 15th major. If he can recapture some of his wizardry, like this shot from 2005 Masters, there's no doubting he'd be right in the mix:
Time will tell just how much of the old magic the former world number one can rekindle. There will always be those who doubt he will ever get back to his major-winning best, however many in and around the game realise it would be foolish to be quite so dismissive.
Tiger can win another major, whether he will or not is another matter altogether. One thing is for sure, golf is better off for his return to competitive action.
What do you think?
Can Tiger get back to his best? Can he compete for majors again? Or has that ship sailed?