Tiger Woods will turn 41 Dec. 30. His days as one of the greatest golfers of all time, if not the greatest, have long past. Severe back and knee injuries have minimized his amazing gifts. At the peak of his powers Woods was a global icon. At age 20, in 1997, he won his first major, the Masters, by a tournament record 12 strokes and became the No. 1 ranked player in the world, a position he held throughout much of the 2000s.
Woods’ record of 79 PGA Tour wins is second in historical rankings, and his 14 victories in the four major tournaments, the (British) Open Championship, U.S Open, Masters and PGA Championship, trail only the legendary Jack Nicklaus’ 18. While Woods is not off the grid, a plethora of young guns such as Rory Mcllroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth relegated Woods to the shadows of the tours as he recovered from his injuries.
Yet he remains a large presence, still the most magnetic personality in golf and an inarguable needle-mover in the world of television ratings. Today, Woods is making his return to the links in Nassau, Bahamas, at the Hero World Challenge after last playing in the tour in August 2015 at the Wyndham Open. His comeback is not analogous to an old prizefighter who has nothing left but has convinced himself he has one more good fight left in him. But it is dubious, and even Woods has doubts about whether he can ever put together 72 magical holes again.
“To get back out here at this level has been a challenge,” Woods said to reporters earlier this week. “A lot of hard work, an extreme inordinate amount of patience, which as you all know is not exactly one of my hallmarks. So I’ve had to exercise that more so than usual, but it’s allowed me to get to this point where I’m able to compete.”
It would be a tremendous lift for the sport if Woods can merely be in contention for a championship on Sunday’s final round, as was his usual place for so many years. He may still have another major victory left in his clubs sometime down the road. But for now, a decent showing may be his ceiling.