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Not all “I do not know once I’ll be returning”s are created equal. Whereas the transcripts from Tiger Woods’ final two CBS interviews on the Genesis Invitational would look comparable devoid of context, the respective footage paints a stark distinction.

When Woods spoke with Jim Nantz a 12 months in the past, he was two months faraway from a fifth again surgical procedure. He stepped into the printed sales space gingerly, his swollen face and reddish eyes arming web trolls with potent meme fodder. His cadence bordered on monotone. His makes an attempt at humor as a substitute drew pity. Woods was clearly not in a great place – he did not know whether or not he’d play within the Masters, he did not know when he’d return to golf. He simply … he simply did not know.

Two days later, properly, everyone knows what occurred. Woods is, in his personal phrases, fortunate to be alive. He is very fortunate to have two legs. He is extraordinarily fortunate that he can stroll once more. He is preposterously fortunate to nonetheless have the ability to play golf. To observe him play alongside his son Charlie in December was to be downright dumbfounded as to how, simply 10 months after that harrowing morning of Feb. 23, 2021, Woods might maintain a knockdown 4-iron up towards a right-to left wind. (Completely pin excessive, by the best way).

The Tiger hype prepare wants however the slightest nudge to race into prime gear, and Woods’ efficiency in Orlando appeared to counsel that, as surreal as it’s to even posit, Woods would not simply return to competitors – he’d do it quickly. With every flushed iron shot and spinny pitch one thing crystallized: a traumatic automobile accident, umpteen surgical procedures, a rebuilt limb full of pins and plates, weeks within the hospital and months of bedrest, wouldn’t be sufficient to maintain down the person with 9 {golfing} lives.

However a father-son scramble, in carts, for 2 days, on a dead-flat golf course with no tough is virtually a unique sport from PGA Tour-level competitors. On condition that nobody’s received extra PGA Tour occasions than Tiger, he is aware of this higher than actually any human, and he has insisted advert nauseum that having the ability to scrap it round for a couple of days in Florida doesn’t equate with having the ability to contend for 4 days in Augusta. Woods is not going to play till he feels he has at the least some likelihood at victory. It is how he is wired. And so we nonetheless haven’t any clue when Woods will subsequent tee it up with a scorecard in his again pocket.

“I want I might inform you once I’m taking part in once more,” Woods, 46, mentioned finally week’s Genesis. “I need to know, however I do not. My golf exercise has been very restricted. I can chip and putt rather well and hit brief irons very properly, however I have never carried out any lengthy stuff severely. I am nonetheless working. Like on the PNC, I am nonetheless engaged on the strolling half. My foot was just a little tousled there a couple of 12 months in the past, so the strolling half is one thing that I am nonetheless engaged on, engaged on power and improvement in that.

“It takes time. What’s irritating is it isn’t at my timetable. I need to be at a sure place, however I am not. I’ve simply obtained to proceed working. I am getting higher, sure, however as I mentioned, not on the velocity and price that I would love. You add within the age issue, too. You simply do not fairly heal as quick, which is irritating.”

If Woods is really pissed off together with his present scenario – and we’ve got no motive to doubt him, given his maniacal work ethic and insatiable urge for food for competitors – it was really onerous to inform final week in Los Angeles. Fairly in another way from a 12 months earlier, he strutted into his press convention with hardly a limp. He appeared match and wholesome. Sounded it, too. Nowhere was that extra evident than his Saturday look on CBS, the place he refused to offer any restoration particulars however lit up the display screen together with his smile. He made enjoyable of himself and laid out a convincing case for including spin to the golf ball as a way of reigning in driving distance. He was a pleasure to hearken to.

After Joaquin Niemann polished off a wire-to-wire victory, Woods spoke crisply and with conviction earlier than handing him the trophy. “I by no means thought you’ll be right here,” Niemann mentioned. “It is one thing very particular for our sport.” Not a phrase wasted. Tiger was round, and Tiger was joyful, and that made everybody joyful.

Woods has that impact. He instructions consideration in each single room he walks into. It would not matter if that room is stuffed by billionaires and Tremendous Bowl MVPs; when Woods enters, necks snap and eyes stare. He defines the phrase bigger than life. Most people tends to really feel a parasocial relationship with such iconic figures. Their actions have an outsized affect on our lives. That is why seeing Tiger in tough form final 12 months minimize so deeply. And it is why seeing him on his A-game final week felt like a heat hug.

This bears repeating: Woods may by no means win once more. He’s Tiger Woods, so who is aware of, however even Tiger Woods is human-a human with scars from 5 again surgical procedures, 4 on his left knee, and a rebuilt proper leg. However Woods loves the sport far an excessive amount of to ever step away from it. Probably the most telling snippet from his CBS look got here in a quick trade between Woods and Ian Baker-Finch, who requested Tiger if he remembered a spherical they performed collectively when Tiger was a teen. He did not simply keep in mind it; he remembered that Baker-Finch’s putter obtained sizzling and that he shot 64.

Golf runs by means of Tiger’s veins. It has since he was a toddler. He’ll at all times be concerned within the sport, even when his days as a full-time tour skilled are over. (Once more: his phrases, not ours). Final week in Los Angeles, then, gave a glimpse of what post-accident Tiger will seem like. He’ll present perception on taking part in situations. He’ll grasp round tournaments. He’ll pour effort into his basis. He’ll weigh in on hotbed matters. He’ll hand out the trophy at his occasions. And sure, he’ll play every so often. However even when he would not, as long as he stays current – to borrow from Joaco: it will likely be one thing very particular for our sport. –Golfdigest.com

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