Woods makes another attempt to reclaim his kingdom
Albany: Tiger Woods makes one more attempt to reclaim the kingdom he once owned. The 41-year-old legend, whose multiple back problems, as also numerous other injuries, have become the staple of media around the world, will tee off for his first competitive round in nine months at the US$ 3.5 million Hero World Challenge at Albany on Thursday.
He will play the first round in the company of the hottest player of 2017, Justin Thomas, 17 years younger than Woods. Thomas is the reigning FedExCup champion and the PGA Tour's Player of the Year.
Few athletes ranked outside of the Top-1000 command the kind of attention that Woods does. But this man is not 'just another' sportsman, but one who possesses 14 Majors and more than 100 international titles worldwide of which 79 have been on the world's toughest Tour, the PGA.
Looking totally at ease and smiling ear to ear, posing with the Hero Motorbikes and on the eve of the tournament that raises funds for his own Tiger Woods Foundation, Woods said: "The fact I don't have any pain in my lower back anymore compared to what I was living with for years, it's just remarkable. There have been periods when I couldn't get out of the bed, let alone swing a club. Sometimes, I didn't think it was going to ever happen. I've been struggling for a long time and to come out of on the good side I'm blessed."
The struggle was clearly quite an effort. "I was struggling to get up from bed and struggled to go to my kids games, it meant so much for me to be able to participate with them in their games and I was not able to do that…now I can play around with football. Toss the baseball around… I feel blessed… I missed being able to do all that."
Woods added, "I missed being able to play golf with my friends. I had not done that in close to two years as my back was hurting so much. Now it is fantastic to come back and play with my friends, I call them kids actually. All these are young guys have become very close. I have played a few rounds with JT (Justin Thomas), (Daniel) Berger, Rory (McIlroy), Rickie (Fowler), DJ (Dustin Johnson) you go out there and challenge yourself against these guys and see where do you stand… how good are my skills after a long layoff… in tournament how would I react… That's what I am enjoying."
Confidently, he added, "I think I can hit any shot I want, but I still need to go through a tournament… I haven't felt the adrenaline for a long time in my body…"
Eight of the world's Top-10 players will feature in the field that is one of the strongest ever in an invitational event. The field is led by Dustin Johnson and includes US Open winner Brooks Koepka, The Open Championship winner Jordan Spieth and PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas. World No. 3 Hideki Matsuyama is the defending champion who is aiming to regain the title against the star-studded field.