Johnny Miller isn’t expecting Tiger Woods to make his return to golf at The Players Championship next week, but it isn’t Tiger’s swing he most wants to see overhauled when he does come back.
It’s Tiger’s expectations.
Miller: “If I had any advice for Tiger when he comes back, it’s that he should say, `I’ve been working really hard on my golf and it feels good in practice, but I really can't tell what I'm going to do when I tee it up. I hope to just make some cuts and build from there and see if I can get my game inching back to where it used to be,’ instead of saying, `I came here to win.’ I really think that puts too much expectation on him. If he could just go the other direction, which is not in his makeup by the way, but it would be good just to try to make the cut and do well on the weekend and just build and get your confidence back, because that other route sounds heroic, but it's just so much pressure. The eyes on Tiger are there every possible minute.
“It's just so hard being Tiger Woods. It's not that hard being Tiger Woods if you are at the top of your game and you're winning everything and you are out driving everybody and outplaying everybody and out-chipping and out-putting everybody and gutting it out at the finish and making the pressure putts. It was probably fun to be Tiger then, but at this stage, coming back, it is just too much pressure.”
Woods, 40, who underwent a second microdiscectomy surgery in September and a follow-up procedure a month later, has not played since tying for 10th at the Wyndham Championship nine months ago.
Miller would like to see Woods make his return at The Open Championship this summer, where he could make his way around the course with a variety of shots. Miller believes Woods must be dealing with a lot internal doubt stemming from his struggles and injuries and long layoff.
“In the back of his mind, he is thinking `I might really embarrass myself,’” Miller said.
Miller has watched Woods struggle the last couple years in ways he never expected to see, including going through chipping yips. Miller said struggles like that remain in the memory bank.
“Those things haunt you,” Miller said. “The chipping yips are sort of always in the back of your mind, that `I hope I don't skull it or chunk it.’ There's a lot going on in his head, and he is so darn smart that he never forgets all the great things he does, but, conversely, he never forgets the things he does poorly. For a lot of guys, they don’t hardly remember what they ate for breakfast two hours earlier. It's hard when you are really smart and you remember all of the tire blowouts and things. He does do that. You can’t get them out of your head.”
Miller says Woods should look at his return as the beginning of something new.
“It’s almost like he is 16 or 17 years old again,” Miller said. “He's almost got to say, `OK, I have a new career.’ He is starting a new career. There's no doubt about it.”