Tiger Woods is making his competitive return to golf at this week’s Hero World Challenge — which benefits his foundation — at his old stomping grounds, Isleworth Country Club, after missing the cut at the PGA Championship in August. This will be his second attempt to comeback from his nagging back injury this year. But this time he’s ready — and he’s returning fresh with a new swing and swing consultant, and new Nike clubs and a new Nike ball.
Woods also has a new sponsor, the same company that’s backing his tournament — Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest manufacturer of two-wheelers, announced a global sponsorship agreement.
Woods, who spoke to the press (his favorite!) on Tuesday, has a new swing, as well — well, kind of.
“Well, it is new, but it’s old,” said Tiger. “When I say that because I haven’t done it in a very long time. We looked at a lot of video from when I was a junior, in junior and amateur golf, way before even when I came out there and had some really nice years where I hit the ball really well. We went back to some of those old videos and really looked at it.
“It was quite interesting to see where my swing was then and how much force I could generate with a very skinny frame. How did I do that? How do I generate that much power? That’s kind of what we are getting back into it…
“The reason why I said it that way is I just haven’t done it in a long time but my body is remembering it. The motor patterns, you develop all these different motor patterns in one’s career. It’s familiar, so it has not taken me that long to implement it.
“I just need to, as I said, I need to hit more balls and get more reps, especially under competition, I want to see where it’s at. I’m very pleased with my speed and the freedom I have and what I’ve been doing with the golf ball.”
Most important, his back is better.
“It feels great,” said Woods. “It feels fantastic. I’ve one the proper rehab. I’ve gotten stronger. I’ve gotten more explosive. I’ve gotten faster.
“All of the things I just now need to hit more balls, but the body is good. It’s nice to have I don’t have the sharp pain like I used to at the beginning of the year. I don’t have that anymore. I still have some aches and pains, just like anybody else who is my age and older.
“But I don’t have to do – I’m past the rehab portion of it, and now I’m in the strength development of it, and I don’t have to do those tedious little rehab exercises. I can basically play with my kids and do whatever I want. We’ve been playing a ton of soccer in the backyard just about every day.”
He feels ready to compete and contend again, unlike perhaps how he felt when he attempted his first comeback of the year in July at the other tournament he hosts, the Quicken Loans National.
“I just had hit driver for the first time the Thursday before I committed,” said Woods, referring to this past summer. “I committed the very next day. I was going, well, this is how I put it: I was going to hit less drivers in a tournament round than I would in practice, so I might as well give it a go, and I did.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t play very well, and it showed. It reflected. My scores were awful. Missed the cut there and I played poorly at the British. Played poorly at Akron and played poorly at the PGA. Nothing was very good.
“So having the next few months off, being able to get my body stronger, but also as I said earlier, trying to really understand where I want to go with my golf swing. And having an old motor pattern that I know has made the transition so much easier.”
Woods missed the cut at that week at Quicken Loans National. Then, he finished 69th at the Open Championship, withdrew from the final round of the (no cut) WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
Woods, of course, also recently hired Chris Como as his “swing consultant” — not to be confused with “swing coach.” As the title implies, this is a different arrangement than Woods has had with his previous instructors.
“I had this plan in my head of where I wanted to go and what I want my swing to look like and what I want to get out of my body and out of my game,” said Woods.
“I just needed to align myself with a person that felt the same way. Chris fits that for sure.”
So, what’s Tiger been doing the past four months?
“I didn’t really do much for the first couple months,” he said. “I basically just went to my kids’ games and just hung around the house, and did rehab probably once or twice a day, but it was just little tedious stuff.
“I would putt and chip here and there just to keep a feel of having a club in my hand, but it wasn’t anything serious. Because again, I was still I had not gone through that process yet. I explained earlier, I had not gone through that process, the direction I wanted to go yet. And until I decided on that and what direction I was going to go, then I would start to practice it.
“It aligned with Chris, and over the last probably month and a half, I’ve been hitting more balls, playing a little bit. Am I game ready? Probably not quite as I would like to be. I would like to well, I haven’t played a tournament round since August. That’s a long time.
“It will be interesting to go out there on Thursday; and how long does it take for me to get my feel back for game shots; feel for my numbers; feel for my yardages; hitting the ball a certain trajectory; what’s the wind doing; all the little things, hearing things; and making adjustments on my downswing.
“All these different little things that we have to do: How long does it take me to get back into the flow of a round; sometimes it takes me a shot, sometimes it takes me three or four holes after a long layoff. I don’t know. We’ll see on Thursday.”
Woods also went back and looked at videos of all his golf swings, dating back to his junior golf days. He did encounter a hurdle going about this task, though.
“Actually it’s pretty interesting trying to find a VHS recorder,” said Tiger, laughing. I have a lot of tape like that, and that’s what fortunately my mom is of age where she has that still in the house. So that was very beneficial to look at some of the old tapes.”