Tiger Woods Returns: 3 Things to Watch For


Tiger Woods makes his "triumphant" return to competitive golf this week at the Hero World Challenge, where he's served as tournament host since 1999. While he may be the only person on the planet who thinks he has a chance at winning, the eyes of the golfing world will be securely fixed on Big Cat. Is Tiger ready to come back to golf? Will he be anywhere near the Tiger of Old (no)? What should we expect from a man who hasn't played on the PGA Tour in over 12 months?

Here are three things I'll be watching for from Tiger Woods before I'm comfortable saying he's back in form:

His short game

During Tiger's most recent comeback he struggled immensely with his putting, chipping, pitching, and essentially anything within 100 yards of the green. In fact, that might be putting it lightly.

Remember what we saw at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open? Yeesh...

That may have been Tiger's worst short game performance of his career, and he'll need to face those fears (likely) multiple times during this no-cut tournament. However, during a pre-tournament interview on Tuesday Tiger said he's basically fallen in love with chipping again, because that's a totally normal thing to say.

Tiger tends to go where his short game goes, making this part of his return vitally important.

His Tee Game

Tiger has always been inconsistent off the tee box, especially with his driver. Anyone who has read Hank Haney's The Big Miss (yeah, that's right, I read books. IN AN OFFICE.) will recall Haney's suggestion that Tiger was downright afraid of the club.

While not as critical as his short game, Tiger's ability to keep the ball in play off the tee this week will be a huge sign of things to come in terms of his competitive ability. The story has always remained the same: when Tiger gets quick, his shots fly everywhere.

If you follow me on Twitter you know I've been pleading for Tiger to slow down his tempo for years. If his "new swing" floating around social media is a sign of things to come, however, we might be in for a pleasant surprise this week.

His Ability to Cope

Above all else is Tiger's ability to cope with a glaring fact: he isn't the big man on the block anymore.

Chances are Tiger Woods will hit a bunch of bad shots this week. He's going to make bogeys. He's going to take penalties. And he'll have to do it for four full rounds, no matter what.

This might be the first time ever that nobody is expecting Tiger to win this week... except Tiger.

His willingness to play to his new role on the PGA Tour -- that of a veteran in the twilight of his career -- will speak loudly to not only Tiger's ability to cope with the dozens of names on Tour who are flat out better than him, but to his comfort level living in his own skin.

We have never seen this Tiger Woods before, and we'll never seen the Tiger of Old ever again. We know that's the way life works.

The key this week will be whether or not Tiger Woods can accept that, too.