by Zack Perhach–
Here is my prediction for Tiger Woods’ next season: there will be a time, maybe within the first week or so, where Tiger will hit a 5-iron. The ball will jump high into the air, the crowd will begin yelling. Eldrick Tiger Woods, eyes still locked on the ball, will begin marching. Walking with confidence toward the hole, following his shot. He’ll pull the club down to his waist, all the while still marching forward.
In that moment, it will all feel real for Tiger Woods fans. Their one true question will be answered: is Tiger back? For those fans, it will feel like he’s back. Each and every one of them will believe again in that moment.
But the reality is, Tiger isn’t back. At least not the same Tiger, but that might be a good thing.
The Tiger Woods of old was a new breed of golfer. He was athletic, hit the ball far, and he drove his game down his opponents’ throats. He thrived in scenarios with somebody chasing him.
That was the Tiger who held the World Golf Rankings #1spot; a spot he held for 683 weeks. That is not a typo. Tiger was the world’s best golfer for almost 13 years until he wasn’t.
Today’s Tiger returned to golf ranked 1,199th in the world. He worked hard, and through the grind made his way to the 13th spot in just one season. He even recorded his first win since 2013.
The Tiger that won the 2018 Tour Championship was not the same Tiger who won all those other tournaments in years past. When he sunk the final putt to win, he didn’t pump his fist, he didn’t throw his ball in the air, he didn’t do any of that. Instead, he paused, took a deep breath, and hid his face as he tried to hold back tears.
Eldrick Tiger Woods’ game is changing. He’s older, slower, and less flexible. Despite that, he still owes the sport more. His last exit wasn’t the one a king deserves. Old Tiger is not back, but the new Tiger is here, playing the game for the game’s sake.