From a beefed up Bryson Dechambeau to former World No1 Dustin Johnson winning the Travelers to two sudden-death play-offs, the only thing missing from the PGA Tour’s thrilling return has been a certain star.
Tiger Woods makes his long-awaited return to competitive golf for the first time in five months at Muirfield this week, a tournament he has secured victory at on five occasions.
What makes the weekend even more intriguing is the 44-year-old will bid to overtake Sam Snead’s long-standing record of 82 PGA Tour wins.
It might be another chance to make history, but moving around the Ohio-based course will feel strange for the 15-time major winner.
For his whole career, one of the sport’s most-recognisable personalities has been the central focus of the golfing world.
The Florida native is followed by large galleries of fans and television cameras pan to him, no matter where he is on the fairway.
However, when he steps out onto the first tee alongside Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka on Thursday afternoon, there will be no spectators.
Woods last competed on the PGA Tour on February 16 when he carded a final-round 77 at the Genesis Invitational – finishing last of the players who made the cut.
This is only his third tournament in 2020. He was scheduled to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship, but skipped both due to back stiffness.
The world number 14 performed notably in a charity match at the Medalist in May alongside Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
However, having not played a competitive round since February, there will be notable rust when he returns to Ohio.
No matter how majestic the big man can be on his day, people can’t be expecting miracles straight away.
A loaded field, featuring 42 of the world’s top-50, will compete for the largest purse since the Tour returned on June 11, a staggering $9.3 million.
As for Woods, he will be looking to gather momentum at a course where he finished ninth last year – his only post-Masters top-10 before knee surgery in August.
With the way DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson, Collin Morikawa and others are playing, Woods is unlikely to contend for victory come Sunday.
However, a solid top-30 display is enough to build on for the coming weeks, ahead of the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in August.
It is hard to know how he will navigate the next few months between majors. If he is not healthy, he’ll skip the PGA Tour events and play only the majors.
If he is feeling sharp, he should play the WGC-FedEx, PGA Championship, Northern Trust, Tour Championship, US Open and the Masters.
Whether he threatens the leaderboard at any of these events remains to be seen, but one thing for sure, no man brings as much magic to the course as Woods.
For any sports fan, to see the American triumph again would be a joy to behold. Turning 45 in December, the only rivals are his ageing body and time.
He is listening to his creaking back more. As he previously said, the less you see him, the longer you will see him in action.
It’s all about the big picture for Woods these days.
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