Tiger Woods made his official return to golf this past weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla. It’s been a year since Woods has played in an official PGA tournament and a couple years since any sort of consistent run of play, and the anticipation for his return was immense all over the sports world. He shot 72-71-70-72 throughout the tournament, earning him a final score of three under par and tied for 27th place. While this was nowhere near the dominance that Woods displayed on the course in past years, it was definitely a positive start for the world’s former no. 1 golfer.
“I’m very pleased, after not playing for a couple of years and then coming out here on the tour and really playing a solid four days,” Woods said in a post-tournament interview.
Woods has been plagued with back problems for the past few years and has had four procedural surgeries that aimed to alleviate some of these health concerns. The strength of one’s back muscles are vital for one’s golf swing, and as a result, Woods’ game suffered. During this period of time, he dropped from No. 1 in the world to No. 647. This most recent performance at Torrey Pines has already had a major impact on his PGA ranking, and rocketed him up 108 spots to No. 539. This is the highest Woods has been ranked since his peak, when he spent 653 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world.
Woods fall from No. 1 began in 2009 when he was at the center of one of the sports world’s most infamous scandals. “The National Enquirer” and other news outlets uncovered that Woods was having multiple extramarital affairs during the six years he had been married to former Swedish model Elin Nordegren. These were a very messy few years for Woods as he fell from the pinnacle of the golfing world. Rightfully so, the average American sports fan turned their back on Woods, who had once been heralded as the greatest golfer to ever live. He was dropped by nearly all his sponsors and slowly started to fade away from the sport of golf. Unfortunately, at the same time, Woods body started deteriorating with age, and the knee and back surgeries started to pile up. To add insult to injury, Woods received negative media attention again in May 2017 when he was arrested for a suspected DUI. He had been persistent in saying he would make a return to golf, but it seemed increasingly unlikely as Woods fell further into irrelevance. However, particularly following this tournament performance, there is definitely hope that Woods could return to No. 1.
On the contrary, though, many understandably want him to stay away from golf, in light of his past actions. Many have cast a moral judgement on his actions and believe that his infidelity scandal and reckless driving charge should be enough to keep him away from the sport for life. This was evidenced by one fan yelling during Woods’ birdie putt on the par five 13th hole during the Farmers Insurance Open. Woods ended up missing the putt and the fan was swiftly escorted off the premises. Woods has always been an incredibly polarizing character on and off the course, and it seems like nothing has changed.
Yet, it cannot be denied though that Tiger Woods has a positive impact on the sport of golf. The majority of the tournament was so crowded by fans following his 18-hole days that you seldom could see him. Other PGA stars like Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama were experiencing much less attention. People love watching Woods not just because he is one of the most accomplished golfers ever, but because he is so daring and lively on the course. He brings energy and intensity to a sport that often lacks it. He attempts shots that his counterparts would never undertake, and can regularly be seen cursing, screaming, and cheering, all viewed by the older golf establishment as “unruly and unorthodox.” Tiger never cared. Woods has won 14 major championships and is one of only five players to ever win a Career Grand Slam, which includes the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship. The golf world is buzzing with excitement to see if Woods, now 42, can stay healthy the rest of the year and try to regain his past stature. Woods next tournament will be at the Genesis Open at Riviera from Feb. 15 to 18 where he hopes to build on his comeback performance at Torrey Pines.