Tiger Woods, during his most recent rash of back-related injuries, has teased us and gotten his and our hopes up, only to hit snag after snag and cause widespread letdowns in several attempts to return to competition from the disabled list.
Now comes word — on the heels of Woods’ announcement that he had planned to tee it up next week in Sonoma — that the Big Cat was "flushing" the big dog at Medalist.
Per NBC Sports: Tiger Woods not committed yet but has 'every intention' of playing Safeway later this month, says his agent Mark Sternberg— Emily Kay (@golfexaminer) October 1, 2016
The observer of Woods’ latest home-course heroics was none other than Jesper Parnevik, who was one of Tiger’s harshest critics after Woods’ messy divorce from Elin Nordegren, but has clearly patched things up with the former world No. 1.
"I see Tiger at the Medalist. We talk and have played nine holes together," Parnevik tells Guy Yocom in Golf Digest’s upcoming November issue. "By the way, he's been hitting a lot of balls, and he's hitting it great. He's pounding it a mile and flushing everything. On the range, at least, his trajectory and ball flight are like the Tiger we knew 15 years ago."
Damn good news about Woods’ trajectory, the state of which led Parnevik to gush, "comebacks are never a sure thing, but something tells me his might be spectacular."
Sure thing or not, Bovada is, of course, offering a bevy of betting options Tiger fans may want to get in on — beyond whether he’ll win his first event back since finishing T10 at the Wyndham Championship more than a year ago. Of course, all bets are off if Woods ends up being a no-show at Johnny Miller’s Napa Valley resort.
We expect Woods to commit officially to the first tourney on the PGA Tour’s 2016-17 season (didn’t last season end like a nanosecond ago?) by the 5 p.m. ET deadline on Friday, especially since he listed that event, next month’s Turkish Airlines Open, and his Hero World Challenge in December on his website’s schedule.
Even so, it’s worth taking a look at how his other aborted comeback attempts worked out. We won’t rehash Woods’ many non-back-related rebounds over the years, but there’s plenty to consider since his first microdiscectomy in March 2014.
Even before acknowledging that his back was acting up, there was more than an inkling from the beginning of the 2014 season that all was not right with the 14-time major champion. To start, he carded his first-ever 54-hole missed cut in January at Torrey Pines, where he has seven wins in his career.
Woods cited a bad back for his withdrawal from the Honda Classic in February after 67 holes.
Following a T25 finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship that March, Woods revealed he had undergone his first back surgery. After that, he was gone for just two and a half months, though he missed the Masters for the first time as a professional. Many medical experts with no knowledge of his specific situation believed Tiger would bounce right back in a couple of months.
That’s what he tried to do, but his return was ugly by any professional golfer’s standards, let alone one who has always claimed his intention was to win each time he teed it up. Things went downhill after a 69th-place finish at the Open Championship.
Woods withdrew after 62 holes from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August at Firestone, a track he had owned to the tune of eight wins in his career. Another MC was on tap a week later from the PGA Championship.
Since he missed the postseason FedEx Cup series, Woods was gone until December, when all hell broke loose when he launched a series of hosel rockets at the Hero World Championship, in which he finished DFL.
What followed in 2015 was a litany of disasters from the perspective of a man most pundits agreed was on track to earn four more tour wins and surpass Sam Snead's all-time mark of 82.
Woods missed the cut in Phoenix, posting his then-career-worst 18-hole score of 82 in the second round.
Torrey was no kinder this time around, as Woods made it through just 14 holes before withdrawing, the conventional wisdom being that it was the chipping yips rather than an injury that forced Tiger to the bench this time.
Tiger, though, coined a new phrase when he blamed "deactivated glutes" for his WD.
During this two-month hiatus, Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte reported that Tiger had scored a "worst-ball" 66 at Medalist shortly before Woods returned to card a respectable T17 at the Masters.
Tiger struggled through The Players Championship (T69) and the Memorial (71st with a third-round, career-high 85), posted a T32 at the Greenbrier between MCs at the U.S. and British Opens, missed a second straight PGA cut, and seemed back on track with his game at the Wyndham.
Then came the surprise announcement of Woods’ second microdiscectomy and follow-up procedure, with the message from Team Tiger that there was no timetable for a return. He ended up skipping the entire 2015-2016 season.
Now Woods is returning, after hints throughout the year that he was on his way back, starting with the "progressing nicely" home video he posted in February.
Progressing nicely. pic.twitter.com/HKnnluR1OW— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) February 24, 2016
After Woods skipped his second straight trip to Augusta, Rosaforte got everyone’s hopes up with a couple of April reports that Tiger was back to up to speed.
There were other Tiger sightings, including that dreadful Quicken National exhibition when Woods splashed three wedge shots in failed attempts to play a 100-yard par-3 hole.
Apparently, though, all of that is behind Tiger, who will roll into Napa fresh from his successful debut as vice captain to Davis Love III’s U.S. Ryder Cup-winning team. During his time as shuttle driver, gofer, head cheerleader, and Patrick Reed’s mentor, Woods — despite urging from the squad — did not hit one ball and gave no public indication about where he was in his prep work for his first competitive round in more than 12 months.
As always, the mystery remains as to what Tiger will bring to the first tee come next Thursday. For sure, the golf world will hold its collective breath and hope it’s the start of Woods’ second career and not another backslide, which would likely be his last.