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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Unsure of body and game, Tiger Woods makes comeback at Hero World Challenge

Tiger Woods, a 14-time Major winner, is making his latest injury comeback at Hero World Challenge after nine months.

other-sports Updated: Nov 28, 2017 23:06 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Albany, Bahamas
Tiger Woods is making his comeback from injury at the Hero World Challenge.
Tiger Woods is making his comeback from injury at the Hero World Challenge.(HT Photo)

A little over a month before he turns 42, Tiger Woods finds himself in a new place. One where he doesn’t know his body, and in the absence of any reference point, doesn’t understand what it can do.

It is a place not far from where Woods was afraid to hit a golf ball. “Oh, my god! Sometimes I didn’t think it was ever gonna happen. This is all new,” he said, speaking to a group of Indian journalists on a windy, cloudy Tuesday morning at the Albany course here, ahead of the $3.5 million invitational Hero World Challenge which begins on Thursday.

Not being able to play golf with friends hurt but what hurt more was he couldn’t participate in his kids’ games, said Woods. “Playing soccer, throwing the football, passing the baseball around with them; from there to here, I am feeling blessed. When it came to golf, yes, I missed playing with my friends. Just go out and play a casual 18 holes. I hadn’t done that in probably close to two years.., Now it’s nice to be able to compete, see how good my skills are. I still need to go through a tournament, see what adrenaline does to my body.”

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Dodgy back

What has made this comeback difficult is people usually do spinal fusion back surgery after their playing days. “The average age of my lumbar back is 58 years, 17 years older than me…The first time I hit the golf ball, I just smoked it… it went 120 yards,” said Woods, breaking into a smile.

“But the good thing is after my doctor told me to ramp it up, I did that every day. I never felt I can’t practice and that is a feeling I haven’t had in a long time.” And practice he did, hitting up to 1,000 balls every day. “Now, I feel I can hit any shot I want, but I don’t know my body yet.”

So, the winner of 14 Majors has decided to pit his skills and test his back against eight of the world’s top 10 golfers here. The field of 18 has world No 1 Dustin Johnson, defending champion and world No 3 Hideki Matsuyama, Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose and three of the year’s Major winners in Brooks Koepka (US Open), Jordan Spieth (The Open Championship) and Justin Thomas (2017 FedEx Cup).

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Huge media interest

After a nine-month layoff, golf’s special one will tee off with Thomas here on Thursday. It has got nearly 90 media outlets camping in Bahamas this week.

Should Woods, now ranked 1193, last four days in this invitational field, he could move up 250 places in the world rankings. And should he add a sixth title here, after 2011, it could take him to the top 150.

The last time Woods won a golf tournament was in August 2013. That was when Sachin Tendulkar was still playing for India, MS Dhoni was ‘Captain Cool’, Brazil had never lost a Word Cup semi-final 1-7, Manmohan Singh ran India and Donald Trump was over three years away from the White House.

First Published: Nov 28, 2017 22:42 IST