“I’m not dead – I’m ready to go,” a defiant Tiger Woods told USA Today on the eve of his return at the Hero World Challenge so what can we expect from the 14-time Major Champion on his return to golf.
Very few sportsmen have the ability to leave the world waiting with baited breath over their return to action, but Tiger is one of the few who has earned the right to do so and after 470 days of torture for his fans, the talking is about to stop; the wait is over.
The 40-year-old’s first round of competitive golf in over 15 months is only the beginning of a long and traitorous road back to the top of the modern game but his fellow pros, top journalists and the game’s all-time greats are all intrigued by his return.
This weekend is a weekend of change for Tiger, he will be using new gear after Nike’s decision to quit the equipment market to focus on apparel earlier this year.
He is expected to be putting TaylorMade’s M1 driver and fairway woods into play at the Hero World Challenge, after he was recently spotted testing them. He is also expected to play a Bridgestone ball and will wear Nike apparel, including the new TW ’17 golf shoe, which he helped design to aid his return from injury.
Tiger has been paired with, 2016 USA Ryder Cup hero, Patrick Reed for his first round back, the pair previously played together during practise rounds at Hazeltine.
“When I was growing up, the best player ever to live wore black pants and a red shirt,” he said.
“When I was growing up watching him, I always thought, you know, it would be cool to wear black and red on Sunday.”
“I have worn it since I was juniors, I did it in amateur golf and it’s worked so I thought there must be something behind it.”
Tiger enjoyed a practise round with Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose earlier this weekend and the Englishman was impressive with what he saw.
He said: “We played today in a breeze of over 20-mph and in quite an unforgiving wind but the quality of Tiger’s play was pretty good”.
Tiger is the only man in the field not ranked in the world’s top 50 but he is confident will be able to compete with the sport’s best this weekend.
“I’m going to try to do the same thing I always do. I’m entered in an event, I’m going to try to win this thing,” he said.
“I know that’s a tall order since I’ve been away from the game for so long and I’ve made a lot of different changes in my game, but the mindset’s still the same. That is to go out there and try to beat these guys.”
“I’ve got all the clubs that I’ve tested and I feel pretty confident with. I know that after this event I’m going to do more testing and figure a few more things out, but as of right now I’m ready to go.”
Tiger may be just a few weeks from his 41st birthday but he recently said he is still aiming to beat Jack Nicklaus’ Major Championship record and despite him need 5 Majors to do so, Nicklaus’ believes Tiger can still do it.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live he said: “I’ve always thought that he’s got at least another 10 years of good competitive golf in front of him, if he’s healthy and as talented as he is.
“I don’t think anything is safe.”