Golfer Tiger Woods is eyeing a Dec. 4 return at the Hero World Challenge in Orlando after being sidelined with a bad back since Aug. 8. He is hitting full shots and supposedly right on schedule. And so the question arises (again): Will Woods ever catch Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors? He has been stuck on 14 since the 2008 U.S. Open, meaning he has not taken a major since Barack Obama has been president.
1 Healthy, wealthy and wise. Finally, maybe, hopefully, he is on the road to complete health, which would be the start of complete confidence. To play in pain limits the belief in executing shots. To play pain-free opens him up to play without limitations or concerns. Big difference. In the past, Woods probably has returned too soon from injury, which, eventually, led to another injury. Considering how he played when returning too soon, the bet is that he will not return to full duty until he feels his body is 100 percent right.
2 He got game. Woods has plenty of it still. No doubt, his play off the tee has been his biggest issue and he has to hit fairways to be in the fray. But there is no reason to believe he will not hit enough to thrive. Meanwhile, he has that trusty “stinger” he can resort to and his iron play remains among the best in the game. He has been called by no less than Nicklaus the great putter of all time. Once the flat stick gets hot over a week, it’s back to hoisting trophies over his head wearing red.
3 Experience. Woods no longer intimidates just by showing up as with the prime of his dominance. But that does not matter. He knows how to win. He knows what it feels like to have jitters on the back nine on Sunday and how to overcome them. His health and consequentially his game might have abandoned him, but he still knows how to work his way around a golf course and understands the mental aspect of what’s required to win.
4 Will. Through everything he has endured — public embarrassment with his philandering scandal, injuries, not winning — Woods’ desire to win remains. He’s wealthy beyond concern, so he’s not playing for the money. It’s all about the record. It’s impossible to measure if his will is more than, say, Rory McIlroy’s or Sergio Garia’s. But the fact that his whole career has been geared toward the record — and that naysayers have cast major doubt that he will break it — means his will burns perhaps even more than ever. And that accounts for a lot on the golf course.
5 Time. Woods is 38, which is not old in the golf game, especially with the conditioning he maintains. He changed the golf game by being super fit and dominating, forcing his foes to get into training, too. In the end, that fitness will serve him well down the line. Remember: Nicklaus won his final major at 46. One major every other year for the next seven years would put Woods at 18 majors at 46. Doable.