Out of Bounds: What’s next in the Tiger Woods odyssey?

Social media clips hint at a return to playing, but will he really be able to compete properly?

Tiger Woods is back playing golf but will he soon be back playing competitively? Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Tiger Woods is back playing golf but will he soon be back playing competitively? Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

 

Only time will truly tell us if Tiger Woods will actually be back competing – rather than merely playing – on tour, but the video teasers he has put out on social media inside the past week should be taken as strong indicators that we haven’t seen the last of him.

It seems an age ago that Woods withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic back in February citing back spasms as the reason for pulling out mid-tournament. That was his last competitive action of 2017, a year to forget in more ways than one for Woods.

Of course, the injury proved to be more than just spasms. He missed the Masters for a third time in four years and underwent back surgery (the fourth of his career) at the Texas Back Institute for the injury which affected his lower back and legs: at the time, a statement referred to a “bottom lower-back disc severely narrowed, causing sciatica and severe back and leg pain . . . . the surgery entailed removing the damaged disc and re-elevating the collapsed disc space to normal levels. This allows the one vertebrae to heal to the other. The goal is to relieve the pressure on the nerve and to give the nerve the best chance of healing.”

It has proven to be a long healing process, but there would now seem to be light at the end of the tunnel for Woods’s return.

This coming Friday there is the matter of a court appearance in Florida for his arrest back in May when police found him unconscious in his car parked by the roadside in the early hours. Woods pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving under the influence and is expected to plead guilty to the lesser demeanour of reckless driving, which caused damage to his car, and will likely enter what is a called a “diversion” programme.

Under that programme, Woods will likely pay a $250 fine and court costs, attend a DUI school, perform 50 hours of community service and attend a DUI workshop. He would also be subject to random drug and alcohol testing under the programme.

Effectively, it means that he will be able to return to tournament play when fit and ready and, although there is no timeline on that, there are snippets emerging that he is further along the track than might have appeared.

Apart from the social media clips – which led to gentle ribbing on twitter from Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – the news that Woods has actually been hanging out with the two young guns and playing some holes of golf with them would provide further indication that he is finally moving in the right direction.

If and when the time comes for Woods to return to competitive action on tour, it can hardly be the Tiger of old, the one who was the dominant player of his era and who captured 14 Major championships. But just as the social media clips of the past week provide us with glimpses of his driving and his trademark stinger, perhaps he will – in any given week – provide us with some of that old flair.

And although Justin Thomas ribbed him for putting out the first clip (of him driving) in slow mo, it was the speeded-up version which saw Woods scoop down to take the tee from the ground which perhaps gave us the clearer indicator that the back is on the mend and a return may be close.

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