Tiger Woods Makes Appearance at Presidents Cup

JERSEY CITY, NJ_Tiger Woods is back – sort of. At this week’s Presidents Cup matches in New Jersey Woods volunteered his services to once again serve as a Captain’s Assistant. He did similarly at last year’s Ryder Cup matches in Minnesota.

In a press conference Wednesday featuring all of the Captain Assistants — Woods was the star attraction. With 16 questions asked – Tiger was the main focus for 11 of them. The 2017 season has not been especially kind to the former world number one player. After an aborted effort to jumpstart his playing career earlier this year Woods went through his fourth back surgery and then suffered a major embarrassment when pulled over for driving under the influence a few months later. The incident indicated the 14-time major champion had taken a range of prescription drugs and the resulting mugshot of Tiger showed a far different person than the one who appeared before the assembled media.

Woods spent the summer in rehab and his re-emergence for this week’s event showed a clearly different Tiger. His overall physique looked solid and his desire to once again be of assistance to his fellow players clearly was most welcomed and appreciated by the American team members.

But, the more important subject of when Tiger will once again be playing remains in doubt. Woods could have removed much of the fog surrounding the time line but as Woods is famous for doing he offered nothing more than vague non-commitment replies.

“I’ve been out of the game for a while. First thing’s first: Get my health organized. Make sure the pain goes away. Then, basically, just as I said, just keep waiting for what my surgeon says. I’ve given you guys the updates on what I can do as I progress, and that’s all I’m doing.”

It’s hard to imagine the last time Woods won a major championship came in his epic man-to-man triumph over Rocco Mediate at Torey Pines in June of ’08 – nearly ten years ago. His last PGA Tour victory came in August ’13 with his win at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.

In that time frame — the void from his absence has been filled with a new generation of players with many of them in full view at Liberty National this week. The names are familiar — Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, to name just four.

Golf would clearly welcome Woods back. Although others have now taken the reins of the top ranks of professional golf, it is Tiger who still commands the professional golf jungle. Woods is keen to realize this and the ongoing tapdance of media questions and replies from him have been an interesting back and forth banter.

But, Woods also provided a clear statement regarding if a return is certain. “I don’t know what my future holds for me.” Does that mean Tiger may never return to competition at the highest level? His answer was clear and to direct — “Yeah — definitely.”

Woods relishes being back among the top players — albeit in a secondary role with others taking the lead. The wherewithal to be among his peers shows he still has not let go completely. Some have said the reason for Tiger’s involvement is more self-centered as Wood realizes that being a future Captain — whether for Ryder or Presidents Cup matches — will mean showing the desire to give something back to others.

There’s little question that Tiger is aware of the rigors of competition and how high a mountain he would need to climb in order to return to the forefront. Besides the physical questions — the larger issue is can he mentally handle the likelihood of playing at level far lower than he did when in peak form? Can Woods successfully grind through rounds when his play is shaky and does he have the inner passion to fight through the ups and downs that come with playing at the highest of levels?

None of that can be answered until he decides to make a sustained effort to try — inside the ropes with the clubs in hand and the competition to face.

Tiger has not cut his ties to golf — nor the game with him. He realizes that the interest in what he does is still apparent. But golf is about posting low scores and the new generation of players that watched as youngsters when he commanded the stage are nowhere near as intimidated as the players routinely beat time after time. Woods realizes that the new crop of players sees him as just another competitor to be beaten as they seek titles and world rankings.

The verbal tapdance Woods provided to the media showed he still wants to keep a few cards hidden from view. “It’s a process, and I’m in no hurry.” If and when Tiger does return he is sure to know that time and tide wait for no one. In his prime years between 1997-2008 there has been no one so keen to seek victory and push aside anyone standing in his way. The final storyline is yet to be written but it pays to remember again the clear words he uttered — “I don’t know what my future holds for me.”

Golf is holding out hope there is one more final chapter for Tiger but without the drive and passion internally it is quite likely going to be an ending no one wants to see — including Woods himself.