Golf Legend Palmer: The Old Tiger Woods Will Be Back
But a legend of the game has seen enough in the 14-time major winner’s recent game to suggest he is closing in on his best form.
Ahead of the annual PGA Tour tournament he hosts at the Bay Hill Club in Florida, seven-time major champion Arnold Palmer warned the field at this weekend’s event to be wary of a revitalized Woods.
“I’m watching him swing and I’m watching him play, and I see some moments of the old-fashioned Tiger that are very good,” the 82-year-old Palmer told reporters.
“So you know, if I were making a prediction, I would say, look out, because one of these days, he’s going to come back and play pretty good golf.”
Woods has been plagued by knee and Achilles injuries in recent years, as well as going through a high-profile divorce after details of his extra-marital affairs emerged in late 2009.
But, having slipped outside the world’s top-50 rankings in October last year, he won the unsanctioned Chevron World Challenge event he hosts in December and then finished tied for third at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January — his debut event for 2012.
However, the 36-year-old was hampered by an Achilles complaint at the recent World Golf Championship event at Doral, where he pulled out midway through the final round.
There were initial fears the injury could force Woods out of the Masters, where he has worn the fabled Green Jacket on four occasions, but those concerns were allayed when he played in the Tavistock Cup earlier this week.
Woods played a practice round at Augusta on Sunday, before pulling up while preparing for the Arnold Palmer Invitational — which he has won six times — after being distracted by a photographer during his downswing.
“I guess one of the so-called professional photographers took a picture right in the middle of my downswing,” Woods told reporters. “I stopped it, and then felt a pretty good twinge in my back.
“I walked it off and then tried to hit one down there, hit it in the fairway, but it didn’t feel very good. But after a couple of holes it loosened up and I’m good to go now.”
Woods has been paired with U.S. Ryder Cup teammate Hunter Mahan and three-time major winner Ernie Els for Thursday’s first round at Bay Hill and he is feeling confident after his outing at the Tavistock Cup.
“That’s one of the reasons why I played Tavistock,” he said. “It felt great at Augusta, and that was the test. I played Tavistock because of that test, and here I am ready to go.”