Out of the Woods: Tiger is back swing­ing

African Independent - - SPORT - JAC­QUES WESTHUYZEN

THERE are other tour­na­ments go­ing on around the world this week­end but the one that will re­ceive the most at­ten­tion is the Hero World Chal­lenge, be­ing played at the Al­bany Golf Course in the Ba­hamas.

It’s not be­cause some of the game’s big­gest names are tee­ing it up, among them Dustin John­son, Jor­dan Spi­eth, Hen­rik Sten­son, Bubba Wat­son, Ricky Fowler and Louis Oosthuizen, but be­cause one of the great­est play­ers ever will make his re­turn to com­pet­i­tive golf af­ter a lengthy ab­sence. Yes, Tiger Woods is back. The tour­na­ment host, who ac­tu­ally started this year-end event in 1999, will be part of the elite 14-man field.

Woods, the one-time undis­puted cham­pion of the game and win­ner of 14 Ma­jors, hasn’t played a com­pet­i­tive round since the Wyn­d­ham Cham­pi­onship all of 16 months ago. He fin­ished tied for 10th then, four shots be­hind win­ner Davis Love III.

Fol­low­ing the Wyn­d­ham Cham­pi­onship in Au­gust, Woods opted to have surgery on his back and while he planned to re­turn to the game at the be­gin­ning of this year, set­back fol­lowed set­back. He was then set to play at the 2016/17 open­ing tour­na­ment on the PGA Tour, the Safe­way Open, a few weeks ago, but with­draw on the eve of the tour­na­ment, stat­ing he was not yet ready for com­pet­i­tive golf.

“They’re go­ing to try and beat me. I want to beat them too,” Woods told the BBC in the Ba­hamas be­fore go­ing out yes­ter­day in round one along­side Ry­der Cup star Pa­trick Reed. “If I en­ter an event, I’m go­ing to try and win the thing. I know that’s a tall or­der but the mind­set is still there.”

The 40-year-old, who’s won 79 ti­tles on the PGA Tour alone, said the time out of the game tested his pa­tience on many dif­fer­ent lev­els.

“To get back out here at this level has been a chal­lenge ... it’s taken a lot of hard work and an in­or­di­nate amount of pa­tience, which is not one of my hall­marks.

“But it’s al­lowed me to get to this point where I am able to com­pete and play again. I haven’t had adrenaline in my sys­tem for a while. As of right now, I’m ready to go.”

Woods will be desperate to find a com­pet­i­tive edge once again. He will also be pray­ing his back holds up to tour­na­ment golf, but one thing is cer­tain, the golf watch­ing fra­ter­nity and the play­ers around him are happy he’s back.

If Woods fea­tures this week­end and plays well against some of the game’s cur­rent top dogs, ex­pect him to be even more de­ter­mined and fired up in the new year. And who knows, per­haps he’ll still chal­lenge Jack Nick­laus’ haul of Ma­jor ti­tles.

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