Wednesday, January 25

Is Tiger Ready to Roar Again?

By Brian Keogh

Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission. 

Tiger Woods is fit and determined.
TIGER WOODS IS BACK ON THE PROWL again—fitter, stronger and more determined than ever.

At least, that’s the message he sent to his potential rivals when he gave a trademark, combative press conference before his well-rewarded appearance in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

Whether he is secretly in agony or on top of the world, Woods will always try and project an aura of confidence and invincibility. But it remains to be seen if the current crop of young guns ahead of him in the world ranking these days will be as overawed by his presence as they once were.

Has he regained his aura? As Graeme McDowell said last year: “Until he starts winning again, he’s not going to get that back.”

Roll on 2012.

The 14-time major winner has been drawn in Abu Dhabi with world No 1 Luke Donald—a player he once dismissed as a “plodder”—and world No 3 Rory McIlroy, the US Open champion, for the first two rounds in the desert. Free from injury and determined to add to his haul of major wins, Woods suggested that he’s back to where he was between 1999 and 2002 when he captured seven of 11 majors he played.

“It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been physically fit,” Woods said.

“So I’m looking forward to getting out there and then playing and give it a full season, which I haven’t done in a while, so I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t know, probably eight, 10, 12 years ago was the last time I felt fully fit.

“I played really well my last three events, so I’m really looking forward to this year, and continuing and building on what we have done towards the end of last year for sure.”

Having ended a two-year victory drought in his Chevron World Challenge shortly before Christmas, Woods is bullish about the year ahead. He’s also aware that he faces a different challenge this time against young generation of players who do not bear Tiger scars on their backs—McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Jason Day et al.

“The young guys are practising harder, training harder than ever,” he conceded last week, admitting that regaining his world No 1 ranking from his current position of 25th in the world might not be so easy.

“The level of consistency I had a few years ago would see me climb back up the rankings quickly, but there are some pretty phenomenal golfers out there whom I really respect.”

Woods respects McIlroy and made positives noises yesterday about Donald’s feat of winning both the European and US money lists last season. But before heading out for a quick nine holes with McIlroy, he gave the distinct impression that he was laying down a marker yesterday, as if to say: Watch out. I’m back boys and I’m fully fit this time.

The question remains: Is Tiger ready to roar again? Abu Dhabi could provide some clues.

Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.

(Photo credit: Keith Allison, Flickr, Creative Commons license)


Troy Vayanos said...

It's a really hard one to predict because Tiger was still winning a few years ago when he wasn't fully fit.

The young players coming through now are much more skilled and mentally strong I think then the guys he was beating a few years back.

I think 2012 will answer a lot of questions about his future on the golf course. I hope he plays well because it will be great for the game.

The Armchair Golfer said...

I agree, Troy. This will be an interesting year. Tiger is healthy and can play a full schedule, so we'll be able to see what he can do against the new crop of players who don't have the mental and emotional scars that the Els and Mickelsons have. I have a hard time thinking he'll ever be as dominant.