Ben Everill / PGATour.com
The anticipation of the return of Tiger Woods has reached stratospheric heights. He has committed to the Safeway Open, which kicks off the 2016-17 season next week in California.
It has been over a year since Woods last hit a competitive ball on TOUR at the 2015 Wyndham Championship and over three years since his last win at the World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational. It has been 20 years since he first won on TOUR.
For those of us who watched him through his peak – realizing it is more than eight years since he won a major seems surreal.
Some expect Woods to find his old dominant brilliance once more. Some are adamant his winning days are done. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle, and we should embrace every chance we see him from now on.
Woods is 40 years old now. And has been through multiple back surgeries. To expect the dominance of his past is unrealistic. But if healthy, he can surely find the magic on occasions. Plenty have between 40 and 50. Jack Nicklaus won the Masters at 46.
Just watching the man in recent times, you get the feeling he understands the realities. Where in the past Woods only played for the ‘W,’ he is most certainly in the middle of a transition in the game.
And early signs show it can still be a great transition for us all.
We should be excited to see him play again. We should wish him an injury-free career from here on out. But I was almost equally excited to see him as a vice captain at the Ryder Cup last week. And the news he will be in the same role at the 2017 Presidents Cup is very welcoming indeed.
There was once some fear Woods would not be the type of player who would revel in these sort of roles. While his giving to the game through his foundation has always been first class, there was a question mark on his role with active players on TOUR.
His performance at the Ryder Cup was telling. Woods was helping the likes of Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson on the range. In his prime, he would never have imparted wisdom this way. But there he was, with a smile, despite the fact not playing must have been burning him up inside.