One of the things I admired greatly about Tiger Woods in his heyday was his utmost belief going into any golf tournament that he would win the title come Sunday.
All he looked for was a ‘W’ – that’s what Woods always called a win. It didn’t matter whether he was playing a golf course for the first time, whether he was coming from completely different set of playing conditions, or whether he was sick or injured.
Woods aimed for nothing less than a victory, and history is proof that he more often than not achieved what he aimed for.
As the 14-time major champion makes his comeback to competitive golf today at the Hero World Challenge, exactly 466 days after he hit his last shot in a tournament at the 2015 Wyndham Championship, it is impossible not to compare his outlook on golf this week, as against exactly one year ago during the 2015 Hero World Challenge.
It wasn’t vintage Woods at the press conference in the Bahamas on Tuesday, but he sounded so much better than the Woods which turned up at that venue last year. Just sample some of his comments from back then: “I think pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy” – when asked about his future.
“There’s really nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build toward” – when asked if he knew when he’d start hitting balls again. I have followed Woods since he announced ‘Hello World’ back in 1996, but I have never heard him being that downbeat and fatalistic.
The swing we've all been waiting for ... https://t.co/IayDADea5y— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) November 30, 2016
To hear someone of his stature talk like that, was quite sad. So, even though he did not say he was going to win this week, his positivity and talk of following a process which should, hopefully, lead to several wins in the future, meant we saw a version of Woods the golfing world has missed.
Most critics have been harsh on his decision not to play the Safeway Open in October, where he pulled out at the last minute saying his game still felt vulnerable. And they also feel he has chosen a soft start by playing in a limited-field event which has no half-way cut.
I personally feel we need to give Woods some space and more time. One back surgery can ruin a golf career, and he has now undergone three. Add one knee surgery as well. Let’s not expect him to start winning and playing at the level we have become accustomed to seeing him at.
This week in the Bahamas, Woods’ score and finish do not matter. What matters is the mindset with which he plays his golf. If he does not back out of playing shots which we all know he can hit, it will be a massive step in the right direction.
ASHOK IS THE REAL DEAL
Aditi Ashok first served notice four years ago, when as a 14-year-old amateur, she not only made the professional cut playing the Hero Women’s Indian Open, but actually finished tied for eighth place in the Ladies European Tour event.
Fast forward to today, she is 18 and in her first season as a professional. The Bangalore-based girl has taken over from Hideki Matsuyama as the hottest golfer in the planet, winning her last two starts – at the Indian Open, followed by the inaugural Qatar Ladies Open.
That’s some achievement considering Ashok turned professional this year after securing her LET card by winning the Qualifying School. She is now No2 in the LET Order of Merit, and also assured of finishing the season as the Rookie of the Year.
Only one debut has been better than Ashok in the history of LET – Spain’s Carlota Ciganda winning both Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year crowns in 2012. Ashok chose the platform of Olympics to announce her arrival of the global stage – wowing the fans by grabbing sole lead in the tournament after 27 holes, before finishing tied 41st.
Since August, she has been unstoppable, turning out one top-10 finish after another. And this week in Daytona Beach, she is trying her hands at the LPGA Tour Qualifying School, having made it to the final stage.
If she manages to get her LPGA Tour card, that would be some icing on the cake.