T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
What should we expect from Tiger Woods this week?
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 | 10:47 a.m.
Whether people want to admit it or not, the simple fact is that no player in the game today moves the needle quite like Tiger Woods -- even as he enters his own Hero World Challenge this week in the Bahamas with a world ranking of 898.
What's not to be excited about? The 14-time major champion is teeing it up for the first time in 15 months. Unlike other comebacks after injury setbacks, all accounts out of the island paradise suggests that Woods is looking good.
Of course, practice is far different from competition. How will he perform while experience the nerves? And make no mistake -- even though this is essentially an exhibition with just 18 players, there will be nerves for Woods. He'll get to see where his current game stacks up against the world's best.
Sure, it's only one event, but this is a big one for Tiger.
That world ranking of 898 is a bit unfair too. You can't accumulate points when you don't play. Also... Woods can gain some serious ground in the Official World Golf Ranking just for FINISHING 72 holes this week:
— Nosferatu (@VC606) November 28, 2016
Theoretically, a victory in the 18-player field could mean a 775-position rise for Woods come Sunday. That's crazy.
So what should we expect from the 79-time PGA Tour winner this week after more than a year away from competitive golf? Here's a look at nine expectations from three very different perspectives...
3. Tiger won't complete 72 holes. He'll re-aggravate an old injury, or he'll be playing so poorly that he'll blame an injury just to withdraw and avoid further humiliation. He's cooked. The career is over. The sooner we all accept it, the sooner we can get on with our lives and stop getting excited about these ridiculous "comebacks." Hang it up, Tiger.
2. Tiger will play all 72 holes, but the chipping yips are back and he finishes dead last. Seriously, guys, name me a player who has come back from the chipping yips. I'm waiting... Still waiting... Here, let me help you -- you don't come back from that. The game is all about touch and the strokes you save around and on the greens. Once that goes, you might as well take up tennis.
1. Regardless of outcome, it's a 18-man field. Tiger's performance this week means nothing. Woo hoo -- he finished 72 holes and finished in the top 10. What the heck are you excited about? To finish in the top 10, all he needed to do is beat eight players -- guys that came to the Bahamas from places like Japan and Australia. In other words, a handful of the eight he beat were battling jetlag. That's something to get excited about? It's not like there was pressure to make a cut... in case you missed it, there wasn't a cut in this tournament.
Editor's Note: "The Pessimist" sounds like a real jerk. Given the season, it's probably fair to call him the "Ebenezer Scrooge of Golf."
3. Tiger will play all 72 holes and hit shots that remind us -- and him -- that the Old Tiger is still in there somewhere. We're not saying it's going to be the chip on 16 at Augusta National in 2005, or the bunker shot on 18 at the Canadian Open in 2000 at Glen Abbey, or the 3-iron bunker shot at Hazeltine on 18 in the 2002 PGA Championship, or even the "better than most" putt at TPC Sawgrass. But that to-die-for shot-shaping? The mile-high 3 woods that land like a feather by the hole? Why not?
2. Tiger will card all four rounds at par or better. On the surface, that may seem like a tall order. But is it really? Bubba Watson won this tournament a year ago on the same course with a four-day total of 25-under par. All but four players finished the tournament with scores that were double-digits under par. No player in the field finished 72 holes worse than 4 under.
1. Tiger won't win, but will be in the mix come Sunday. He's saying all the right things -- he's been able to practice a lot, pain-free; he's hitting all the shots he needs to hit; he's excited, inspired and rejuvenated. If he's all those things, why shouldn't we expect him to be in the mix on Sunday in an event with such a small field? Is a top 5 completely out of the realm of possibility? Remember: This guy is TIGER WOODS.
The Completely Unreasonable
3. Tiger's going to open the tournament with a score of 64 or better. What? You think that's ridiculous? The guy's been waiting 15 bloody months for this round! He keeps talking about "Phase 2" of his career. All you fools think that's about his business portfolio. What he really means is he's ready to be back and dominate once again -- The Year 2000 style.
2. Tiger will have a healthy 54-hole lead. At least five strokes ahead of the field. While everyone else has been bouncing around the world playing, Tiger has been focused solely on this week. Shoot, I'll be disappointed if he doesn't have a large lead going into Sunday.
1. Tiger's going to win wire-to-wire. Dude -- he's using the Scotty Cameron putter he won 13 of his 14 majors with again. It's going to be the greatest reunion since Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito decided to give it another shot. Maybe even better. This week -- this win -- is going to be the catalyst for getting back on the train for the race to catch and surpass Jack's 18 majors!
Let's get serious for a second. Regardless of how it plays out, aren't we all just at least a little excited to see the Big Cat strolling the fairways again?