Coming into this season, you would have been hard-pressed to find anybody who felt better about Tiger Woods‘ chances to win his 15th career major championship than me. You’d think that news of Woods hitting full shots in rehab over the weekend, still a month ahead of the Open Championship, would only improve that outlook.
Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.
As a fan, certainly the report from Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte that Woods’ recovery from back surgery is allowing him to take full swings is a good thing. Driver is even in play, and we’ve all witnessed the toll that Tiger’s powerful, almost violent action has taken on him. If his back is allowing him to work at full speed, then it seems obvious that Tiger’s return this summer is just a matter of when and where, no longer “if”.
After being forced to sit out both the Masters and the U.S. Open, it seems almost a forgone conclusion that Woods has his sights set on Royal Liverpool this July. Woods won his last Open title there in 2006, and is somehow still listed as a 7-1 favorite to win this year, even though nobody has any clue if he’ll be able to play. Makes sense, right?
I do expect that if he’s healthy enough to go, we’ll see him go after another Claret Jug this summer, but the realist in me knows that expecting anything close to major championship form from Woods is little more than a pipe dream. Assuming that the Open is his first time back in competition, it will have been four months since he last hit a meaningful shot, and having to contend with the wind and rain that so often define the Open will only make it that much harder.
Of course, when he’s healthy and in shape, Woods is still the best player on the planet. Now more than ever, though, it seems that gap is getting smaller and smaller. Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer are playing some of the best golf of their careers, Rory McIlroy is on the rise again, and you’ve still got guys like Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson to deal with. To me, the Open is anybody’s game even if Woods is able to compete in top form.
This will certainly be a developing story throughout the summer. Keep it here for up-to-the-minute updates, and let us know what you’re expecting from Tiger in the comments below.