NASSAU, Bahamas – How quickly we forget.
The year-end Hero World Challenge, a rich-get-richer gathering in a secluded development appearing unscathed by hurricane Dorian, typically offers blunt assessments on the state of Tiger Woods.
And while the week is always a reminder of the tournament beneficiary TGR Foundation and its incredible success shaping young lives, the Hero has turned up at wildly inconvenient times over the last decade.
The 2009 playing at Sherwood Country Club exuded the atmosphere of a state funeral while Woods remained holed up at an undisclosed location after his fire hydrant run-in.
Six years later, Woods appeared at the first playing in the Bahamas unable to play and unable to see any light at the end of a dark injury tunnel.
“There’s really nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build towards,” said Woods, adding, “where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know.”
There were recent years we feared watching bouts with chipping and driving yips, other flashes of Woods’ brilliance offering hope of one last run, and a few years when his game was fine but not sharp.
Which may explain the smiles all the way around this week as he deals with the first-world burdens of hosting on behalf of his foundation while also preparing for next week’s Presidents Cup.
Woods kicked off the week with various Hero-related media obligations. Appearing fit, fresh and upbeat while sporting a blue Nike mock shirt and black pants, he talked with Golf Channel’s Lisa Cornwell about the state of Tiger the golfer.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been practicing a lot around the greens to be dialed in for the next two weeks.”
Woods noted the short game focus with a nod to Albany’s elevated green complexes and grainy Bermuda grass surrounds that can expose the slightest miss, followed by the complicated green complexes at Royal Melbourne next week. With two wins this year and several other moments of glory — beating Rory McIlroy at the WGC Match Play seems like years ago — Woods appears excited about his increasingly hands-on role with his business operations and the task of prepping to be a playing captain at next week’s Presidents Cup.
During a breezy chat with longtime friend Cornwell that started 15 minutes before cameras were rolling, Woods said there is too much “on my plate” to even look ahead to 2020. But armed with the winner’s green jacket in his home closet, a record-tying 82nd PGA Tour win, and a repaired knee, Woods turns up here no longer wondering whether he’ll be able to play well again. Instead, the focus naturally turns to the ultimate record, with Cornwell asking if Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major championships is within reach.
“I think it is. I have to do everything right. I have to have all the pieces come together.”
At this Hero World Challenge, Woods has all of the pieces of his life and career back together. A welcome respite from years past, a week of smiles and some decent golf will carry him to Melbourne, and if his body holds up, another year of pursuing some of golf’s greatest records.