The Roar Is Back


By an unofficial count, it will have been 253 days.
But whos counting?
OK, an entire sport has been counting.
Counting on the return of Tiger Woods from a broken leg.
Late Thursday afternoon the news arrived that the wait had ended. 'I am now ready to play again,' Woods said.
We had been counting with fingers and toes crossed.
Counting with endorsement dollars. Counting with circulation figures. Counting with ratings numbers. Counting with advertising revenues.
Counting, by his legion of worldwide followers, on the return on their emotional investment of the competitive fortunes of greatest golfer who ever lived.
Thats 253 days between the time Tiger Woods historic and heroic Monday playoff histrionics at last Junes U.S. Open and the day he now says he will return to competitive golf at the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona next week.
The count is unofficial because everything was sort of foggy in golf while Tiger took time off to mend a left knee that underwent ACL reconstruction.
To be sure, Padraig Harringtons two major championship victories in Tigers absence were official. All credit to the Irishman whos still the only European to win a major championship in this century.
And all credit to captain Paul Azingers U.S. Ryder Cup team which stormed the fairways and greens at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky in September and strong-armed the Ryder Cup away from the Old World and back to America.
But lets be honest here: Golf without Tiger these last eight-plus months has been, at times, a little bit like potatoes without meat; icing without cake; Biden without Obama.
The recent reports of Woods recuperation coming out of his home course, Isleworth Country Club in Central Florida, have been highly-ephemeral and overly-scrutinized; much like puffs of Vatican smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.
There had been rumors that Woods had recently visited the new venue of the WGC-Accenture Match Play. The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, north of Tucson, has been open barely a month. But Golfweek magazine recently described the track as feeling like a stroll through rugged ground that has been tamed for the purpose.
In other words: A relatively good walk unspoiled by too many hills. That was a tip-off. The less arduous the treks, the easier that would be on a potentially tender knee.
Thursdays news had been eagerly-anticipated by the golf world, even by the players he has beaten like a bass drum since he turned professional in late 1996. I miss the opportunity to compete against him, Phil Mickelson said two Tuesdays ago. We all do. And we hope he gets back soon. And it looks like he will be out soon.
Soon will be Wednesday Feb. 25 when Woods, still ranked No. 1 in the world and seeded first, will face off against Australias Brendan Jones, the 64th-ranked player in the world, in the first round.
Accenture, also one of Tigers sponsors, is immensely-pleased and its relationship with Woods had to factor into his decision. Other dominoes that fell into place along the way included the healthy delivery of Woods second child, Charlie Axel, earlier this month; the absence of a pro-am at the Match Play; and the opportunity to get Woods return interviews out of the way before the PGA Tour heads back to Florida where the run-up to Aprils Masters begins in earnest.
Woods thrashed Stewart Cink, 8 and 7, in the finals of last years Match Play. He also won in 2003 and 2004. Three of his last four losses in this event have come at the hands of Australians. The low point was 2002 when Aussie Peter OMalley, the last seed, knocked him out, 2 and 1, in the first round.
Tiger has always professed to love match play and he has three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateurs and three consecutive U.S. Amateurs to prove it. The skins are on the wall. But he has also spoken many times about the caprices of match play and how one player can shoot the equivalent of a 65 or a 64 only to be boat-raced by an opponent playing better that day.
But if he loses in an early round, only the harshest critic will think the less of him for it. Because on the 254th day, in the throes of a spiraling world economy, Tiger Woods will return to golf.
He is not John Maynard Keynes, the late, great interventionist economist. But in the corner of the world reserved for golf, there will be new hope that Tigers personal recovery will stimulate and precipitate the beginning of a larger recovery.

Related Links:
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  • WGC-Accenture Match Play field closed
  • Woods' wife gives birth to son Charlie Axel
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