Great expectations as Tiger returns

For years, ahead of any elite event, the expectation from Tiger Woods was nothing less than the champion golfer adding one more title on Sunday. This week, the return of Tiger has naturally triggered off expectations, but of a different kind.

Tiger Woods plays a shot during the pro-am prior to the Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas on Wednesday.   -  AFP

For years, ahead of any elite event, the expectation from Tiger Woods was nothing less than the champion golfer adding one more title on Sunday.

This week, the return of Tiger has naturally triggered off expectations, but of a different kind.

It doesn’t really matter where he finishes this Sunday in the $3.5 million Hero World Challenge at the Albany here. What matters is, Tiger is back and whether he can finish four rounds in a healthy shape.

Last year, Tiger topped the list of birdies but also had more number of double-bogeys than any other player in the elite field. Six months later, he needed another back procedure to set right a nerve that caused him unbearable pain and discomfort.

READ: Tiger Woods: I am going to keep it simple

Ideally, the expectations should have remained low from a man away from the competitive golf for nine months. However, there has been talk of how healthy Tiger appears. Players like Rickie Fowler and Jason Day spoke about how good Tiger was playing, how far he was hitting the ball and how he was out-driving Dustin Johnson. Needless to add, this has added to the unwanted pressure on Tiger when he is only trying to play some good golf.

By default, Tiger, too, has contributed to the expectations by talking about how painlessly he is swinging the golf club in the run up to his comeback here.

On Tuesday, a smiling Tiger revealed what he found as ‘exciting’ about his golf these days. “The neatest thing for me is to be able to get up out of bed and I can grab a club and not use it as a crutch, okay? So now I’m able to take a swing. That’s so exciting, you have no idea how exciting that is.”

This newly-found ‘excitement’ of Tiger is understandable. After all, two years ago here, a weak and vulnerable Tiger declared how unsure he was about his future as a golfer. At that time, troubled by excruciating pain in his lower back, Tiger barely touched the ball at the practice green during a promotional photo-shoot on the eve of the event he has hosted since 1999.

At present, Tiger sounds a lot happier and wiser, too.

“I don’t know where I’m at. What I mean by that is I don’t know how hard I can hit it, what shots can I play. The wind is supposed to be low this weekend and if it blows 30 miles an hour, I’m going to have to hit some shots. I’m going to have to lean on a few and take something off of it, hit some shots, some creative ones. I may have to blast a few. I don’t know yet. I don't know what the future entails in that regard because I'm still learning this body.”