‘Here was a Swooshed up kid kick­ing ev­ery pre­con­ceived no­tion we had about the game of golf into the kerb’

Golf World (UK) - - FROM THE EDITOR - Nick Wright, Ed­i­tor nick.jwright@bauer­me­dia.co.uk @nick­jameswright

Tiger Woods and I don’t have too much in com­mon – other than a dodgy back and a slightly re­ced­ing hair­line – but our ar­rival into the world of golf co­in­cided dur­ing the mid-90s. Tiger’s en­trance, I have to say, was some­what more dra­matic and her­alded than mine. While I was sit­ting in a tiny of­fice fact check­ing copy, Tiger whis­tled his open­ing drive on his pro de­but 336 yards down the mid­dle of the fair­way at the 1996 Greater Mil­wau­kee Open to a ca­cophonous re­cep­tion.

The crowd that co­cooned Woods on the first tee that day was of a size and diver­sity we had never wit­nessed be­fore at a reg­u­lar PGA Tour event. The whole world, it seemed, had turned up to see how the young kid with a $125 mil­lion Nike deal would mix it in the paid ranks with a bunch of sea­soned, mid­dle-aged Tour pros. Demon­strat­ing his pen­chant for de­liv­er­ing on the big stage, Tiger made a hole-in-one in the fi­nal round.

If you were around golf at that time, you’ll no doubt re­mem­ber the sheer level of ex­cite­ment the young Tiger brought to a game that, while not ex­actly strug­gling, lacked siz­zle. Golfers, we were told, peaked while wear­ing Pringle sweaters in their late 30s, but here was a Swooshed up kid tak­ing the game by the scruff of its neck and kick­ing ev­ery pre­con­ceived no­tion we had about it into the kerb. Woods claimed the Mas­ters ti­tle the fol­low­ing sea­son and con­tin­ued to win at a phe­nom­e­nal rate in dra­matic fash­ion.

We rode that wave of eu­pho­ria for the best part of 15 years be­fore Woods hit the self-de­struct but­ton back in 2009. The road back to full fit­ness – phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally – has been ar­du­ous and full of false dawns, but it does look like we’re fi­nally see­ing some­thing close to the real Tiger again.

The buzz is cer­tainly back. At the re­cent Valspar Cham­pi­onship in Florida, where Woods came this close to win­ning, the fi­nal-round TV rat­ing was the high­est non-ma­jor au­di­ence since the 2013 Play­ers Cham­pi­onship. The third round au­di­ence was 181% up against pre­vi­ous sea­son’s event.

The big­gest test of Tiger’s re­cov­ery comes at Au­gusta Na­tional, a course that will ex­pose your most minis­cule weak­ness. If Tiger’s game can with­stand that in­spec­tion, we could be about to wit­ness one of the great­est come­backs sport has ever seen.

En­joy the is­sue.

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