Nick Dougherty on what would be a good result for Tiger Woods on his return
Last Updated: 30/11/17 5:35pm
Tiger Woods makes his long-awaited return to competitive golf at this week's Hero World Challenge, but Nick Dougherty admits it is tough to predict what would constitute as a good week for the biggest name in golf.
I don't think anybody truly knows what would be a good result for Tiger Woods this week, and the man himself admitted at his press conference that he didn't know either!
It's so hard to predict, but one thing for sure is that it's one of the biggest stories in golf this year. The excitement generated by Tiger's latest comeback is huge, and there is clearly still a lot of admiration for him in the golfing world.
Tiger Woods is the biggest icon the sport of golf has ever had, and everything he has achieved in his career has been way above and beyond anyone else in his generation.
There remain the doubters who believe his time has come and gone and that we may never see him back to his best. It would be fantastic to see him lift one more major, although I'm not sure he can.
Tiger returns in this week's Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, as he did last year after 16 months out, and it's a similar situation to 12 months ago when you attempt to gauge what would constitute a good week for him.
He opened with an understandably rusty 73 last season, but he showed signs of genuine encouragement with a superb 65 on day two which really set the pulses racing. If he can shoot a similar score on any of the four days this week, I wouldn't be surprised, but I would add that it would be a remarkable achievement that no other golfer could emulate.
There's also a part of me that's more of a realist, with the knowledge that he's unlikely to be the same player that dominated the sport for the best part of 15 years.
In recent weeks we have seen plenty of footage of Tiger's swing, and it certainly looks to be more of a free move with less compensation than the last time we saw him in competitive action in Dubai back in February.
I believe he is hitting it straighter and further than this time last year, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll do that in tournament conditions. It also remains to be seen if his short game is in good shape, and whether he's in the right place mentally.
The big question for the week is 'why he could win', and the answer would be, 'because he is Tiger Woods'! We've seen him win tournaments from the most unlikely situations over the years, although that was when he was clearly the best golfer in the world, which he clearly isn't right now.
I have no doubt his thoughts and expectations will now be a lot more normal, but his legion of fans around the world, and I am one, still harbour the belief that he can win on the PGA Tour again. But as much as I would love to see him dominate the way he used to, it is asking a lot of him.
Amazing how in spite of the lack of play for Tiger and heroics from JT, DJ, Spieth, his comeback is making the biggest noise in Golf this yr— Nick Dougherty (@NickDougherty5) November 27, 2017
Tiger's heyday was a golden era in golf and I consider myself very fortunate to have been a professional during his best years. It got to the stage where if you finished above Tiger in any event, the chances are you'd have been lifting some silverware.
But in recent years, there have been a number of players that have beaten Tiger more than he has beaten them, and it really pains me to say that because beating Tiger when he was at the top of the world rankings was a privilege reserved for the very best of the rest.
So, realistically, what is a good result for Tiger at Albany this week? I'd suggest that completing all four rounds is a good start, I'd like to see signs of positivity in his game that he can build on as he attempts to shake off the rust and be more competitive as time progresses.
Above all, the best thing to take out of the Hero World Challenge would simply be to see Tiger Woods looking like he's genuinely enjoying being back in competition again.
Tiger, and Tiger alone, will decide when it is time to call it a day, but that could yet be 10 years down the line, or it could be two weeks away. But the first order of business is to get through 72 holes pain free, and anything else in terms of good scores and the overall result is a bonus.
I honestly don't believe he can win this week, especially when he's up against only 17 other players with eight of them in the world's top 10, but if he can manage a top-five finish, that would be a heroic performance.