Tiger’s latest return provides interest in golf at a time when there is none

Ronan MacNamara

Tiger Woods (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Golf in 2024 promises to undergo a seismic shift in both the men’s and women’s game. But one constant will always remain, this is Tiger’s world and we all live in it.

Golf is in a state of flux and what it has done is create a lot of meaningless tournaments but arguably even worse is that it has seen a lot of ‘almost meaningless’ tournaments, particularly since the Ryder Cup in Rome. If there was ever a time for golf to just pack it in for the winter, it was then. Take a leaf out of the club golfer’s book, have a seat on an armchair.

The final round of the DP World Tour Championship was enthralling and it shows when all the top players show up on the tour, the tournaments are brilliant. Twelve Ryder Cuppers and the cream of European golf together for an all too rare occasion.

Yet, there was something missing. The climax of the season is supposed to centre around the Race to Dubai, but Rory McIlroy was confirmed as the winner before a ball had been hit. It rendered the tournament and subsequently his fifth European Order of Merit triumph as the dreaded almost meaningless.

Even in the lead up to the tournament, McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry hadn’t played competitively since the Ryder Cup and had the Tour Championship not been on we wouldn’t see them until the New Year.

The fact is, the DP World Tour is becoming weaker and weaker and LIV Golf has stripped some stalwart PGA Tour events of their quality making both more difficult to watch.

Even as a golf writer it’s difficult to list off a PGA Tour winner other than Erik Van Rooyen and Camillo Villegas. Two heartwarming stories that gave life to two almost meaningless tournaments.

Watching the Netherlands vs the Republic of Ireland on Saturday night was a painful way to spend a weekend as someone in their 20s. The game took the form of a pre-season friendly, just waiting for the curtain to be brought down on a catastrophic campaign. The post match feeling after both Dutch games and Greece in Dublin hasn’t been disappointment, rather apathy, which is worse.

That apathetic feeling hasn’t been exclusive to international football, it does seem that the golf season culminates in fans going through the motions as they wait for the next major championship and even now, if you blink you will miss them as they are finished by July. Elevated events were added to the PGA Tour schedule and other than draining the fields of other events do they really mean more?

By Monday morning we will have reached the end of the 2023 season, where professional men’s golf can breathe a sigh of relief. Another turbulent year done.

That was until a certain fifteen-time major champion gave all golf fans an early Christmas present by announcing his latest comeback to competitive golf for the umpteenth time. And he did it organically, there was no long standing hype around a potential return with Tiger posting chipping videos and swing sequences to get a certain American journalist frothing at the mouth in excitement.

The fact is that nobody cared about the Hero World Challenge, nobody knew when it was on and it was a meaningless week in the Bahamas. Now, it has meaning. To watch Tiger Woods play golf again for the first time since April.

The Tiger Woods merry go round is the ride nobody wants to get off. Sure, it might all end in tears in the usual fashion of the Tiger Woods comeback cycle. Play the Hero World Challenge, play the Father and Son tournament with Charlie, play the Masters, make the cut, look like a broken man (because you are) at the weekend. Play in two of the three remaining majors, withdrawing from one, hibernate for the autumn and appear at the Hero World Challenge again to fuel hysteria around the latest comeback trail.

And it’s brilliant.

Tiger Woods may have won fourteen major championships but because he came back from spinal fusion surgery and won a fifteenth in 2019, the belief that he can do the impossible again will never leave golf fans.

The Hero World Challenge is a glorified exhibition but the 20-man field is absolutely stellar and the addition of Woods makes for prime viewing if only to get a glimpse of the man on a cold winter evening.

Rest assured whether he’s ten-under or ten-over, every shot will be shown.

Tiger was already due to make a return of sorts in January in the new TGL but a competitive return to tournament golf in 2024 would be fantastic news for the PGA Tour.

What happens with the PIF merger ahead of the December 31 deadline for an agreement remains to be seen but if LIV Golf is still permitted to pinch golfers from the PGA Tour, a competitive Tiger Woods would help prevent some of the top players from moving to the Saudi backed tour.

It’s like the PGA Tour is Harry Potter and Tiger is Dumbledore and as Hermione said to Harry, “once Dumbledore is around you can’t be touched.” Outside of the four majors if Tiger was able to make it to double figures in PGA Tour appearances next year that would be fantastic news for the PGA Tour who would be able to recoup sponsors who have pulled out of tournaments recently and maintain their trumping power over LIV in terms of viewing figures.

It’s winter time now, the days are short, the evenings are dark and the nights are long. So, what else would you be doing other than watching Tiger on the box in just under a fortnight?

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