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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
Martin Fennelly Columns

Tiger Woods buzz is back despite all the doubts

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Published:   |   Updated: July 16, 2014 at 06:49 AM

Tiger Woods is set to play his first major of the season, the Open Championship, as they say in Merry Old. He tees off at Royal Liverpool at 4:04 a.m. our time. Some of you will set your alarm.

It doesn’t matter that Woods has hardly played since March back surgery or that he hasn’t won a major golf championship in six years.

Nor does it seem to matter that, 4:04 a.m. or no, it’s getting awful late in the day for Woods to catch Jack Nicklaus, who is still on the mountaintop with 18 major victories to Woods’ 14. And sometimes it doesn’t even matter that Tiger revealed himself to be a flying pig of a person a few years back.

If he does anything at this Open, there will be talk about courage and perseverance, because Tiger will be back to save golf all over again. It will be nauseating.

Can we get over this guy already?

No.

Tuesday, Woods told media he has been here before. He cited 2008, when he had knee surgery right after the Masters, missed two months, won the U.S. Open, in his words, “with a torn ACL and a broken leg,” before more knee surgery ended his season.

“I’ve proven I can do it,” Woods said.

TV ratings will spike if Woods is any good this weekend. The needle always moves when he is around a leaderboard.

But the guy isn’t Superman anymore. Woods shakes off any notions about rust coming into this championship, but now it sounds like talk, not truth, like arrogance, really.

He’s 38. Once upon a time, the question wasn’t whether Woods could pass Nicklaus. The question, simply, was when.

Now it’s different. Woods was 32 when he won his last major. Nicklaus had won 11 majors by that age, so Tiger was ahead of schedule. It should be noted that Nicklaus won four majors after he turned 38, including his unforgettable Masters win when he was 46. So, technically, Woods is still within range.

But it doesn’t feel like it, not anymore.

In April, Nicklaus told ESPN that he still thinks Woods will break his record. Then again, what’s the Golden Bear supposed to say — he won’t break my record?

I was once enthralled with Woods chasing Nicklaus. Now it’s a tired tale. Woods has shown he isn’t the man Nicklaus is. Greatness on the golf course is just greatness on the golf course.

Tiger Woods should be yesterday’s news by now. Golf has a lot to rally around. At last year’s British Open, Phil Mickelson delivered a dramatic win. Who needed Tiger? And what’s wrong with good guy Bubba Watson running away with the Masters in April?

True, deadly dull Martin Kaymer methodically stomped the life out of the U.S. Open last month, routing the field. That’s when the game seems like it needs Tiger Woods, badly.

There are people who will rise early Thursday hoping it will be the start of something memorable. Woods has played just two competitive rounds since surgery, when he missed the cut at Congressional. It might just take an act of Congress to make him a threat this week.

Eight years ago, at this same Royal Liverpool, Woods won the first major he played after the death of his father, Earl. It was emotional. We were hooked. Tiger Woods wasn’t just the biggest name in golf, he was the story, the biggest name and face in all of sports — and the face had tears on it.

Now he’s slightly broken down, as multimillionaire as ever, but a golf god no more. He’s a long shot to catch Nicklaus. I don’t think he’ll do it.

There are plenty of other stories out there. What about 20-year-old Jordan Spieth? Woods has a U.S. Amateur title almost as old as Spieth, who finished second at the Masters and might be the next big thing.

Who needs Tiger Woods?

It’s time to move on.

So, we’re all agreed, right?

Right.

I’ll set my alarm for 4.

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