Can Woods finally rise from the ashes of his career in Phoenix?
SLIPPERY slopes and downhill plummets? They are phrases that could be used to describe the fluctuating career fortunes of Tiger Woods and his skiing girlfriend Lindsey Vonn. At least Vonn has been heading in the right direction of late. She’s won three of her last four races over the past week on the pistes. Woods, meanwhile, looked decidedly piste off. No wonder. He turned up in Italy to watch one of Vonn’s victorious hurtles with a tooth missing.
Can the toothless Tiger get his bite back in 2015? That’s the question that’s spewing forth as the former world No.1 – with a full complement of pearly whites again – makes his first start of the PGA Tour season at tomorrow’s Waste Management Phoenix Open in what is another of his ‘comeback specials’. With the Superbowl also taking place in Phoenix this week, there’s plenty going on in the Valley of the Sun. Will it be a new dawn for Woods, though?
The interest, the intrigue and the infatuation will be at fever pitch as observers analyse every swing, step and shot with the kind of intricate detail usually reserved for an MRI scan.
For the first time since 2001, Woods is teeing up in the Phoenix event as he tries to rise again like, well, a phoenix from the golfing ashes. A tentative return in the 18-man field contesting the Hero World Challenge in early December was hardly earth shattering – he finished 18th.
Given that he had been out of action since August prior to that, it was hardly surprising he was as rusty as a decommissioned frigate but an alarming haul of over six duffed chips during that World Challenge was, by all accounts, the worst short game performance we have witnessed from the 14-time major winner.
He insisted his game was “ahead of schedule” following an early morning practice round yesterday, confident his work with swing coach Chris Como was beginning to bear fruit.
“It’s great to be back. it’s been a long time since I’ve been back,” he told a press conference.
“I had to take a little break there for a while, a flu bug got me pretty good for another, probably, three weeks afterwards.
“I lost a lot more weight so I was finally able to start gaining weight again and then start training.
“Overall, I’m very pleased to go out there and it’s going to be a fun year.”
Woods’s record in his debut appearances of the season down the years makes for impressive reading. Since his first full season on the PGA circuit in 1997, he’s won the first event on his calendar seven times.
So what can we expect this week? Certainly some frosty glances between Robert Allenby and the press pack after the Australian called a press conference to blast all and sundry yesterday following the media’s reporting of his bizarre ‘kidnapping’ caper at the Humana Challenge.
But as for Woods? Some will say there is more likelihood of him emulating the share of 80th place he had in his first event of 2014 than there is of him barging into the top-10. The question that tends to pop up these days is not “will he win the tournament?” but rather “will he make the cut?”
If he makes the cut then a solid finish would be seen as a positive step in the right direction.
Here we go again.
CHANGED TIMES: Rather than ‘will he win the tournament?’ the question that seems to pop up for Tiger Woods these days is ‘will he make the cut?’