Oct 11, 2016

    Can Tiger recover his fearsome roar?


    TIGER Woods, 14 months removed from his last competitive outing, nearing his 41st birthday and in recovery from multiple back surgeries, still ignites interest like no other golfer.

    The 14-time major champion will tee it up on Thursday at the Silverado Resort in Napa, California, in his first competitive start since a 10th-place finish at the Wyndham Championship on Aug 23, 2015.

    The normally low-key Safeway Open - which marks the start of the USPGA Tour's 2016-17 season - in California's wine country north of San Francisco - is suddenly the centre of the golfing world.

    "I'm sort of glad I'm not there that week," Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy said when Woods announced the projected timetable for his return in September.

    "It's going to be a bit of a circus."

    Compared with 45 media outlets credentialled last year, 106 are this year, with organisers doubling the physical size of their media centre.

    A similar jump in ticket sales is expected, with some reports suggesting fans could be treated to a superstar pairing of Woods and five-time major winner Phil Mickelson in the opening rounds.

    Not that Woods needs any help to draw a spotlight or rampant speculation on just where his game might be after more than a year of painstaking rehabilitation.

    Sweden's Jesper Parnevik told Golf Digest early this month: "Comebacks are never a sure thing but something tells me his might be spectacular."

    His most recent major title came on one of those bum knees at the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines. Since then, he has looked less and less likely to break the record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

    The man who reigned at number one for 683 weeks is not even in the top 700 now.

    Doesn't matter, McIlroy insisted.

    "He brings an aura and an atmosphere to a tournament that no one else in golf can bring," said McIlroy who, like everyone else, is eager to see what Woods will produce next.

    "It's different trying to get back from an injury at 40 years old than it is when you're in your 20s or early 30s," McIlroy said.

    "I think that's why it's been over a year since we have seen him on a golf course."