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Taking Tiger return with a pinch of salt

Tiger Woods in action in the past: He’ll take part in Hero World Challenge. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Tiger Woods in action in the past: He’ll take part in Hero World Challenge. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A few days ago, Tiger Woods tweeted: “I’d like to thank the committee of 1 for picking myself and Daniel Berger to play in this year’s #HeroWorldChallenge.” He was announcing his return to competitive golf following a nine-month break.

The Hero World Challenge, ordinarily played in December, is an invite-only event hosted by Woods and whose benefits go to the Tiger Woods Foundation.

The invites include the most recent winners of the four Majors, the top 11 players on the Official World Golf Ranking, the winner of the previous edition of the Challenge and two special invites, selected by “the committee of 1”.

Although the field is limited to 18 players, the total prize kitty is in excess of $5 million (Sh515 million) and the winner takes home at least $1 million (Sh103 million), making this event attractive to the top players.

Woods has been victorious at the Hero World Challenge a record five times, most recently in 2011; he donates his prize money to his foundation.

The return of Woods to competitive golf has elicited comments, from excitement to dismay and to questions as to how long this “return” will last given his recent injuries and other social related issues.

An article by Kyle Robbins (www.sbnation.com) starts by saying “There’s nothing left to write about Tiger Woods”. Robbins goes on to say Woods’ timeline is filled with “infidelities and injuries, and return to greatness, and then more injuries, and yips, and shanks.”

Woods is 41, ranked 1,180th on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), and the field at the Bahamas includes the likes of Jordan Spieth (24 years), Rickie Fowler (28), Justin Thomas (24), Brooks Koepka (27), Daniel Berger (24) and Hideki Matsuyama (25).

How will Woods cope with these young, athletic and agile pros?

CNN reminded golf followers that Woods was just a week ago placed on probation for a year after pleading guilty to reckless driving. BBC Sport said Woods has gone through four back operations in the last three years and that he won his last golf Major in 2008.

Why would Woods want to return? What is he chasing? To begin with, there is the small matter of 18 Majors, a record held by Jack Nicklaus. Woods has 14 to his name, so close, yet so far. Woods has 79 PGA Tour career victories, just three behind Sam Snead’s record of 82.

Woods holds many other records. For example, he has won several multiple times — the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational eight times each, the Farmers Insurance Open and WGC Cadillac Championship seven times each and the BMW Championship and Memorial Tournament five times each.

He played 142 consecutive events without missing a cut between 1998 and 2005, he has won 7-Tour events consecutively, behind Bryon Nelson with 11 and ahead of Ben Hogan with 6.

The 2017 Hero World Challenge play is from the November 30 to December 3.

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