ROB­BIE GREENFIELD

Golf Digest Middle East - - Contents - Rob­bie@mo­ti­vate.ae Twit­ter: @Rob_Green­field / @GolfDigestME

o para­phrase Win­ston Churchill, Tiger Woods is a rid­dle, wrapped in a mys­tery, in­side an enigma. He is about to turn 41 and has not won a ma­jor in over eight years. When last seen on a golf course 16 months ago, he was un­recog­nis­able from the player of old, un­sure of ei­ther his abil­ity to find a fair­way off the tee, hit a crisply struck chip shot or hole a six-foot putt. Since then, he’s had not one, but two ma­jor back oper­a­tions in what now amounts to a long and com­plex list of in­va­sive surg­eries.

Last month, he with­drew from the Safe­way Open cit­ing a vul­ner­a­ble game, adding a size­able cairn to the moun­tain of doubt sur­round­ing his golf­ing fu­ture. He launched his new brand, TGR, ush­er­ing in what he de­scribed as ‘chap­ter two’ of his life off the golf course. Could we per­haps now fi­nally get some clo­sure on golf’s most cap­ti­vat­ing fig­ure and move on?

Ev­i­dently not. Less than a week later, Woods was telling talk show host Char­lie Rose that he still be­lieves he’ll pass Jack Nick­laus’s tally of 18 ma­jor cham­pi­onships. Jes­per Parnevik re­ported that he’s hit­ting it like ‘the Tiger of old’ on the range, and pre­pos­ter­ous thoughts amount­ing to what would surely be the great­est come­back in all of sport now in­habit the minds of other­wise sane and log­i­cal ob­servers.

This is as much about us as it is about Woods. As Char­lie Rose put it, ‘we can’t let you go. We want to see you [dom­i­nate] one more time. And that’s re­flected in the TV rat­ings’.

It is hu­man na­ture to pine for lost great­ness. Of­ten the best sto­ries in sport cen­tre on a for­mer leg­end rolling back the years and per­form­ing an in­spired en­core, from Jack Nick­laus at the Mas­ters in 1986 to Muham­mad Ali’s with Ge­orge Fore­man. Does Woods’ story con­tain one last, un­likely chap­ter?

Woods ap­pears to have mel­lowed con­sid­er­ably in the last few years, grant­ing more sit-down in­ter­views and speak­ing far more ex­pan­sively than he ever did dur­ing his long reign as golf’s World No.1. Many of his dec­la­ra­tions con­tra­dict one an­other, from an ad­mis­sion that ev­ery­thing he achieves past this point ‘will be gravy’ to reaf­firm­ing his be­lief that he will win more than 18 ma­jors.

Tiger Woods, who has had seven surg­eries and was last seen fight­ing a case of the chip­ping yips (not to men­tion a crooked driver) needs to con­dense the ma­jor cham­pi­onship ca­reer of Phil Mick­el­son into how­ever long he has left un­til ei­ther age or in­jury prompt his re­tire­ment. Woods’ last ma­jor came at the 2008 U.S. Open, against Rocco Me­di­ate. Now he’s got to beat the likes of Ja­son Day, Jor­dan Spi­eth, Dustin John­son and Rory McIl­roy, all of whom hit the ball far­ther, and with more ac­cu­racy, than he does. Win­ning even one more ma­jor ap­pears fan­ci­ful, catch­ing Jack the very height of delu­sion. But one thing is cer­tain. If Woods re­ally does tee it up at his Hero World Chal­lenge next month, the world will be watch­ing.

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