Tiger Woods is fighting again, as the American broadcaster Golf Channel aptly described, like Don Quixote against windmills. Again and again he tried in vain to dampen the often exaggerated expectations. And this year they are particularly high. In the past 13 months, the superstar has achieved three great victories, won his 15th major title with the Masters and, after knee surgery in autumn, ended the year brilliantly.
He won the 82nd PGA Tour triumph at the Zozo Championship in Japan, equalizing Sam Snead’s record. His last appearance impressed all observers and colleagues. As a playing captain, he led the American team in Melbourne to victory in the Presidents Cup against a world selection without Europe. He won his three matches and demonstrated his class with a single win over the Mexican Abraham Ancer.
More ball speed
It was therefore not surprising that before the annual debut on Torrey Pines’ North Course in La Jolla, a neighborhood in San Diego, the darling of the public had to put everyone in his place at the Farmers Insurance Open, who was on the Pacific facility already seen as the big favorite for the 83rd win on the PGA Tour. “I don’t think of records. I’m thinking of how I have to play, what my tactics look like, ”said Woods, who will be playing new metal woods this Thursday. They should bring him a little more ball speed and thus more distance when teeing off. It remains to be seen whether he can use it to steer the ball onto the fairway on different bends, as in his last appearances.
Despite these small objections, Woods was optimistic before he went on the first round together with the Spanish world rankings third Jon Rahm and the American up-and-coming hope Collin Morikawa: “There is not a lot to dust off in my game,” he said – but dampened everyone again, who wanted to make him a top favorite: “At my age there are more bad days than good”, Woods described his physical condition after four back and knee operations. “I can’t just go to the first tee and hit the ball 300 yards. I have to warm up and prepare for hours, ”he explained as he prepares his body for the stresses of the tournament.
That’s why he always takes breaks. Woods hasn’t played much in the past few weeks. He didn’t touch a racket for two weeks after the Presidents Cup. “Then on my 44th birthday on December 30th I did a lap with my son Charlie, just as I always did with my father,” he says. On January 13, he served as a caddy for his ten-year-old son at a youth tournament in Florida. The videos of the swing of the Filius caused a sensation on the Internet. Colleagues winked with a wink that they already saw the next major champion, the next big dominator, described the swing as better than that of the father. Indeed: The swing of Woods junior is impressive, even if he landed in the 9-hole tournament with five strokes over par in the beaten field.
“Maybe my last chance”
Such positions are of course not an issue for the long-standing Primus. He still thinks he can win more majors. Jack Nicklaus, who celebrated his 80th birthday on January 21, needed 26 years for his 18 major successes. There was still time for him, who won his first major title in 1997 with the Masters. But Woods is not only keeping an eye on the majors this year. He wants to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. “This may be my last chance,” said Woods, “but it is very, very difficult to qualify for the team.” He currently ranks sixth in the International Golf Federation (IGF) Olympic ranking, as in the world rankings. This would make him one of the four Americans who can compete in the Olympics alongside Primus Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. But there are still many tournaments pending until June 22, the date for the Olympic qualification.
Peter Dawson, the IGF president, still spreads optimism: “If Tiger wins the Masters again, the matter is clear.” Even though this year all top players in the Kasumigaseki Country Club, about 60 kilometers from Tokyo, from 5th to 8th August want to fight for medals – nothing would increase interest and TV ratings like Woods’ participation, especially since the tiger in Japan fascinates the masses like no other. When he fought for victory at the Zozo Championship with local hero Hideki Matsuyama, the sympathy clearly belonged to the American. “When it came to whether golf would become an Olympic again in 2008, the International Olympic Committee had only one question: is Tiger Woods playing?” Recalls the American Ty Votaw, who was lobbying for the IGF at the time. Twelve years later, this question is still very topical.