Football pips golf as the sport of choice for most Nigerians, but every so often stories transcend sport to such an extent that they cannot be ignored by the casual fan. Tiger Woods has of course made many headlines, many of which have been negative, in Nigeria and elsewhere over the last few years, but there are signs that this revival may be even more spectacular than his fall.
For some context, Woods, as most people are aware, was once considered a shoe in to eclipse Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 golf Majors. From 1997-2008, Woods took 14 Major titles, and was widely believed to have many years left at the top. Without going through all the details, injury and personal issues has ensured the last decade was largely fruitless. There was a brief period of success in 2013, but things seemed to get much worse after that, with Woods falling to an all-time low of 201 on the money list a year later.
Indeed, during the last few years there was no end of media stories suggesting that Woods had finally put his issues behind him. Nearly all proved to be false dawns. There was, however, a turning point in 2018 – 10 years since his last Major – were Woods finally seemed to be, well, Tiger Woods again. In fact, Woods went from strength to strength, improving his game throughout the summer and eventually clinching his first significant tournament victory since 2013 at the Tour Championship.
Woods co-favourite for the 2019 Masters
The point is that Woods has not just been good in a handful of tournaments, he has been consistently good for almost a year now. Even more foreboding, it has been clear that Woods game has been improving throughout the year. Bookmakers have reacted to Woods’ sustained improvements. 888sport’s Masters odds, for example, see Woods as the current co-favourite with Jordan Spieth at 9/1.
The Masters is arguably the tournament Woods cherishes above all others (he has won it four times), but 888sport have also put him as the 8/1 favourite for the US Open and PGA Championship (ahead of Dustin Johnson at 10/1), as well as the 8/1 for The Open (ahead of Rory McIlroy at 12/1). The fact that Woods is the only consistent figure in the betting markets for different types of courses proves the bookies believe his comeback to be almost complete.
Woods should really be in twilight of career
Have the bookmakers jumped the gun too soon? It should be remembered that Woods will be 43-years-old when the Majors take place next year. While golfers can have a much longer career than other sports stars, winning Majors in their 40s is not all that common. Only around a dozen players older than Woods have won Majors in the long, long history of golf, although he can perhaps take inspiration from his great rival Phil Mickelson who won The Open 2013 not long after his 43rd birthday.
However, Woods has always been an outlier in golf, a once-in-a-generation talent who revolutionised the game in more ways than one. There is a feeling if the comeback is truly going to be complete – and that means victories in the Majors – then 2019 will be the pivotal year for it to happen. It’s going to be fascinating to see if the greatest player in history can get anywhere near the almost unreachable standards that he once set himself.