Punch Shot: What to expect from Tiger at Hero?

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Tiger Woods competes for the first time since the PGA Championship, in this week's Hero World Challenge. The 18-man field will compete on Tiger's old home course at Isleworth Country Club. GolfChannel.com writers offer up what they expect from Woods this week:

By JASON SOBEL

When it comes to Tiger Woods' game, I don't think any of us know what to expect anymore. He could return to the glory days with dialed in approach shots and plenty of birdie putts dropping into the cup; he could continue to miss fairways in a big way and scramble for pars.

There is one thing I do expect this week, though: He'll be healthy once again.

Why? Because there's no reason to risk it if he's not. I had no problem with Woods playing through pain at the year's final two majors because they mean so much to him. But he's shown in the past that he'll skip a non-major - even one hosted by him - if he's not fully healthy.

Just the fact that Tiger is competing this week should tip us off to the progress he's made with that back injury. As for his results, well, that's still anyone's guess.


By RANDALL MELL

We should expect to hear that Tiger is following all his protocols, and he’s getting stronger. That his “fast twitching” is coming along, and he’s starting to get some of his explosiveness back, but it’s a process, and he still needs to knock off some rust.

Tiger has a language all his own, and whether you like his lingo or not, he knows how to talk to himself as well as anyone who has ever played the game. That’s part of what we should expect to hear in news conferences and after his rounds; Tiger talking to himself as much as he’s talking to us. We should expect to hear Tiger’s confidence and ambition and his resolve.

What will we see? We should expect to see some wild drivers, because taming that club with his new consultant/coach is going to be a real challenge with or without this layer of rust. We should expect to see Tiger upset at his bad shots, because, well, he’s Tiger, and he gets upset at bad shots. Ultimately, we should expect to see enough really good shots to wonder if Tiger will have a really good year, and enough bad shots to wonder if he won’t. We should expect to see what amounts to an inconclusive rehab start.


By REX HOGGARD

Seventy-two holes. Nothing more, nothing less should cloud anyone’s expectations this week for Tiger Woods.

To be fair, Woods’ return from the DL this week at the Hero World Challenge is his first competitive round since back-to-back 74s at the PGA Championship and after a season marred by injury it would be unreasonable, if not wildly unrealistic, to expect the host with the most to produce more than that.

In fact, as Woods embarks on a new era with “swing consultant” Chris Como it would be advisable to temper expectations for the next few months.

The fact is just three times in his last seven seasons has Woods been able to play a full dance card on the PGA Tour and this year’s seven-start outing has all the markings of rock bottom.

But as 2013’s five-win season proved, if healthy Woods can still dominate, which makes this week’s start at Isleworth more pivotal than it would appear.

This is less about picking apart the dynamics of Woods’ new action than it is a chance to see if he spent his time since the PGA resting and rehabilitating, per doctor’s orders.

Playing 72 holes at the no-cut event, regardless of score, should be the primary goal, anything beyond that is a bonus.


By RYAN LAVNER

I expect a good bit of rust. Tiger Woods hasn’t played competitively in nearly four months. He’s breaking in a new swing coach, his third since 2010. He’s going up against 17 of the top-26 players in the world. And he’s playing a tough, albeit familiar, course in Isleworth. So it might not always be pretty.

To be fair, I had similarly low expectations this summer when he returned at his event in D.C. Playing his first tournament in four months, he shot rounds of 74-75 and missed the cut. Yes, Woods should be healthier now than in July, but he has just 21 competitive rounds under his belt this season. Whether he finishes fourth or 14th, it doesn’t much matter for his long-term prospects. 

Realistically, we should view Woods’ appearance this week in Orlando as a minor-league rehab assignment – an opportunity to play four rounds, get the competitive juices flowing again and (hopefully) emerge injury-free. Getting into contention would be a bonus.

Essentially, it’s a warm-up for what Woods hopes will be a healthier and more successful 2015 campaign.