The last time Tiger Woods won a major, Barack Obama was a U.S. senator. Jordan Spieth was 14 years old. Most of us used BlackBerrys.
Woods was happily married, or so it was thought, when he outlasted Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. His left knee was a mess, but he had yet to experience the Achilles, back and neck issues that would make “Tiger Woods withdraws” a Google search with 412,000 results.
The PGA Tour rings in 2015 on Friday in Maui with the first round of the Tournament of Champions, but the field contains only winners from 2014. Golf.com reported Wednesday that Woods plans to make his debut in three weeks at the Phoenix Open, the raucous, liquor-fueled event that has not attracted Woods since 2001.
Woods teed it up just seven times in 2014, finishing 69th in the British Open and exiting the PGA Championship after shooting 74-74.
Father Time has not caught up to the 39-year-old, it has lapped him.
But here we are again, wondering if Woods can make a run at Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors. Even for those of us who are not big fans — I prefer guys who tip well, sign autographs for kids and make an effort during news conferences — the universal hope is that Woods will win No. 15.
Tiger is good for business, and a winning Tiger is great for the game.
“I’m pulling for him,” NBC analyst Johnny Miller said Wednesday.
So is the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, a keen critic who said: “For the first time ever, Tiger has more questions about him than obvious assets. Will his body hold up? Will he be able to incorporate a new swing in a brief period of time? Unlike with his other (swing) changes, he doesn’t really have much time to take advantage of whatever physical skills he still has.”
Another question: Who is Chris Como, and how can he help?
When Woods wrote in a Nov. 22 tweet, “Happy to have Chris Como consulting and working with me on my swing,” many wondered: Who?
Not Kevin Weeks, the Cog Hill instructor who works with tour players including Kevin Streelman, the Wheaton Warrenville South alumnus. After Woods split with Sean Foley, Weeks figured his friend Como, a biomechanics expert based in Plano, Texas, would get the call.
“He’s a really smart guy and very prepared,” said Weeks, who dined with Como recently — but did not talk about Woods.
“He has been working with Aaron Baddeley and Jamie Lovemark, two guys who really have started driving the ball better. He has research and science behind him. He’s not thin-skinned. And he’s very low-key.”
So low-key that the website ChrisComoGolf.com is “Under Construction” and he has put out only one tweet since Woods hired him.
Woods is calling him a consultant, rather than a swing coach or instructor. NBC on-course reporter Mark Rolfing predicted a “totally different” relationship than the ones Woods had with Butch Harmon, Hank Haney and Foley.
Six-time major winner Lee Trevino hopes Woods will rely on only one man — himself.
“He has to do this on his own,” Trevino said recently in Chicago, where he headlined the Western Golf Association’s Green Coat Gala. “If he gets another guru, that guy is going to be changing him again.
“He has had the knee done. He had the back operation twice. He’s going to have to adapt to which way his body will move. He can’t have someone on the side saying, ‘No, do it this way.’ He needs to get a radio, go off to the side and start pounding those babies.”
Woods last played at the Hero World Challenge in December, finishing tied for last in the 18-man field. His back held up, but he endured a horrendous chipping performance that included several chunks — and led to more questions.
“Can he overcome this issue with his driver?” Chamblee asked. “Can he overcome this issue he had around the greens at the Hero? When you see anybody chip the way he did … you don’t just get rid of that in a week. Imagine him trying to hit pitch shots off tight lies at Augusta National. There’s scar tissue.”
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