Tiger Woods is set to make his latest comeback at the 2017 Hero World Challenge, and the golfing world will wait with bated breath to see just what sort of shape he is in.
Winning his 14th major back in 2008, it seemed inevitable that the American would go on to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18, but that US Open success at Torrey Pines remains the last time he lifted one of the big four trophies. He has made all the right noises over the years about how he will go on to equal and surpass the Golden Bear, but that now seems highly unlikely and the sort of comments that a washed-up boxer issues before his last attempt to roll back the years for one final pay-day.
There is no question that Woods still has the talent to succeed but it is open to debate whether his fragile body can ever stand up to the rigours of playing on the PGA Tour.
The Florida resident underwent a fourth back operation in three years in April after withdrawing from the Dubai Desert Classic at the start of February and there was little by way of positive news coming from the Woods’ camp. An arrest for driving while under the influence hardly helped matters, while the 41-year-old’s comments at the Presidents Cup that he might never play again seemed to suggest that even the most driven of men might be at the end of his tether. But he will tee it up in the Bahamas between November 30 and December 3 for the restricted-field event that he hosts and hope to get through four rounds unscathed.
By his own admission, Woods has returned from previous injury absences too soon and paid the price, and the sight of him walking or being carted off a golf course while grimacing in pain was becoming all too familiar. He has bided his time on this occasion because, as he approaches his 42nd birthday on December 30, there is no guarantee that he would have it in him to make it back from yet another setback, and it may well be his last-chance saloon.
A few of his fellow US stars have practised with him in recent times and stated that he seemed to be swinging a club as well as ever, with Rickie Fowler suggesting that his length off the tee had not diminished despite a plethora of surgeries. However, hitting balls on the range or playing a few money matches with your buddies is a far cry from having to smash a ball 250 yards out of thick rough to give yourself a chance of saving par.
It is only then that we will see if Woods is ready to return for what would inevitably be a shortened season stateside.
Tiger Woods is one of the greatest ever golfers and the way he dominated the sport for a decade was sensational, but time catches up with us all and it would seem folly to suggest that he will ever be near the top of the world rankings again.
The nature of the sport means that he could raise his level over four rounds to win another tournament but, with his star on the wane and any number of fresh and hungry youngers now on the circuit on both sides of the Atlantic, his glory days have surely be consigned to history.