Tiger – may the force be with you – again

Tiger Woods was probably the greatest golfer I have ever seen. I don’t think he was the best in any one of the 4 main areas – driving, long irons, chipping, putting – there are better players out there in all of those. Yet he had an ability to put it all together when it mattered – but what made him really special was his competitive intensity.

When Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods played in the early part of his career, everything about him was electric. His stride had purpose, his eyes sparkled with adrenalin and his focus was unrelenting. When Tiger took the lead the field was beaten. Not since a black shorted, black booted Mike Tyson entered a boxing ring have I ever seen opponents so evidently beaten psychologically. It didn’t matter whether it was the opening round or the final round – as soon as he hit the front, the title was as good as decided.

He turned pro in 1996 and quickly won his first major at the Masters in 1997 and despite a minor blip in 2003 & 4 he amassed 14 major wins before his last win in the 2008 US Open. Since then nothing – other than extra-marital affairs, a divorce, a new coach, 4 reconstructive knee surgeries,  a bad back and a few less endorsements to worry about – but on the golf course very little to write home about. Has Tiger reached the end of the road?

I don’t think so. The individual components aren’t too much different to how they were in his prime. Yes, his injuries haven’t helped and he has to manage his game within what his body allows him to do, but in some ways that might add to his game rather than detract. The secret ingredient he needs to find is that intensity.

Over recent years, when things haven’t been going well we’ve seen him shrink into himself – he’s looked fed up, he’s lost his temper, he’s stomped from green to tee – he’s looked like a tormented man. The day he can put the mistakes behind him and stride purposefully around the course again whether it’s going well or badly, the day he is so focused on the golf course he wouldn’t notice a streaker sprinting across the green 3 feet in front of him,  the day that sparkle return to his eyes – that’s the day I’ll bet on Tiger to win his next major.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it returned for the Open at Hoylake this week but I think that might have come a little too early – he’s only played one tournament since his latest return from injury and missed the cut.  The PGA remains the last major of the year in August and that’s also going to be a stretch so for my money it’s 2015 and I think we’ll see Tiger back on the winner’s rostrum in April.    I for one certainly hope so because in the same way athletics needs Usain Bolt, golf needs a winning Tiger Woods.

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