In Douglas Adams’ famous novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the number 42 is the ‘Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything’. The problem is that nobody knows what the question is. Tiger Woods turns 42 today. The question is where does he go from here? Right now, it is very hard to guess at the answer.
While it very much remains to be seen what sort of year Tiger is going to enjoy aged 42, one would hope it would be considerably better than the one he suffered at 41. He teed it up at the Dubai Desert Classic in early February and withdrew after one round, suffering acute back spasms. That was a week after after he’d missed the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, one of his favourite courses, where he’d won the 2008 US Open. (Yes, it’s nearly ten years since he won his last major championship.) He didn’t play a round of competitive golf after Dubai until early December, his activities for the rest of the year including being arrested by the police for driving under the influence of drugs (he seems to have got confused about which medications he should be taking with what), fighting for the removal of internet images of himself and a former girlfriend, oh – and undergoing his fourth back operation in three years.
At the Presidents Cup in the early autumn, Woods said that “definitely” he might not be able to play competitive golf again. But no sooner had he done that than he was posting images of himself (sans the ex-girlfriend but with clothing) hitting a ball with a caption saying ‘Smooth iron shot’. What a tease, hey? On October 30, he announced he would be playing in his own tournament in the Bahamas in the first week of December. “I’d like to thank the committee of 1 for picking myself…to play in this year’s Hero World Challenge,” he said on Twitter. The touch of humour was quite un-Tiger like, but his golf under the gun was pretty good. He finished in a tie for ninth. On the other hand, he’d finished 15th in the tournament last year, but that proved to be no happy harbinger for 2017. Might it be different this time around?
He talked a good game in the Bahamas, saying he felt “no pain” – i.e. he felt injury-free. He played a decent game, too, shooting 69-68-75-68, which was ten shots worse than the winner, Rickie Fowler, but it was better than the efforts of world No. 1, Dustin Johnson; the US Open champion, Brooks Koepka; and the USPGA winner, Justin Thomas. “I knew I was going to be able to play all four rounds; that wasn’t going to be an issue,” said Woods. “The issue was how my scoring was going to be, how was my feel? How am I going to get used to the adrenalin in my system, because it’s the first time in a while and that took a bit of time.” Looking ahead to his schedule for 2018, he said: “I need to play enough but not play too much and I don’t know the best way to go about it yet. But we will figure it out.” Four days before Christmas, he announced that his swing coach, Chris Como, would not be among the “we”. His services were no longer required.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy described itself as ‘A Trilogy in Four Parts’. Tiger’s career has been ‘A Thrillology in Fore! Parts’. Like most of us, I guess, I’m fascinated to see how it plays out from here. Happy New Year!