Tiger tiger, burn­ing bright!

Sportstar - - APPRECIATION WOODS - ANIR­BAN LAHIRI

Wel­come back, Tiger. Thank you for com­ing back. We waited a long time for this.

Is­tarted play­ing golf around the age of eight, which would mean some­time around 1995­96. By 1999­2000, I knew this was the sport for me.

I turned pro­fes­sional in the lat­ter half of 2007, a lit­tle less than a year af­ter be­ing part of the sil­ver medal­win­ning team at the Asian Games. By then, I was sure all I wanted to do was to play pro­fes­sional golf.

So, the two most cru­cial pe­ri­ods in my life as far as golf is con­cerned were 19992001 and then 2005­2009. No prizes for guess­ing as to who was the dom­i­nant name in both pe­ri­ods.

Those days, much of our con­ver­sa­tion on the prac­tice green would be on imag­in­ing a “Putt for the Claret Jug” or a “Putt for the Green Jacket.” There was also hardly any other name that was ut­tered or whis­pered when some­one asked who we — not just me but all oth­ers of my gen­er­a­tion — wanted to be. Only Tiger Woods!

While try­ing to pen my thoughts on what Tiger has meant for the sport, which is now my life, I had this urge to find out how many times he had won in th­ese two cru­cial pe­ri­ods of his golf­ing ca­reer. Guess what — the pe­riod be­tween 1999 and 2002 pro­duced 31 ti­tles and the pe­riod be­tween 2005 to 2009, 35. That is 66 ti­tles — in­clud­ing his 14 Ma­jors — out of the 91 ti­tles he has won on glob­ally recog­nised pro­fes­sional Tours in his ca­reer. He is said to have won more than 100 around the world.

So, it is hard to imag­ine my golf with­out think­ing about Tiger Woods and the in­flu­ence he has had on many play­ers like me.

When Tiger went away from the game in­ter­mit­tently from late 2009 on­wards, with per­sonal trou­bles and in­juries, both his crit­ics and fans at var­i­ous times kept de­bat­ing and dis­cussing whether or not he could come back. He would play and win some­thing and just when it seemed “he was back,” he would be gone with some other in­jury. He had four surg­eries.

He did win five times in 2013 and was the Player of the Year on the PGA Tour, but that was al­most like a teaser. That was the last time he won till this year’s Tour Cham­pi­onship.

The toughest part of his life came af­ter 2013. It in­cluded both in­juries and per­sonal prob­lems. It surely was a dark pe­riod for a man who had vir­tu­ally ruled the game.

It is im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine how he must have felt. Few, if any, had reached the lev­els he had in our sport. To fall from there, not just in golf but gen­er­ally, was in­deed tough.

It seemed the harder he tried,

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