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Tiger still the focus at TOUR Championship 2018

Tiger still the focus at TOUR Championship 2018

 

It’s not a surprise. No shock. I won’t be making any new-found revelation to you, but Tiger Woods still makes the world stop and stare when he shows up. His latest arrival is at the East Lake Golf Club for the TOUR Championship, where he comes in ranked 18th in FedEx Cup points. To make it here he had to pull himself up within the top-30 golfers, something he hasn’t done since 2013.

“What I’ve missed most about playing this event is that in order to get into this event, I would have earned my way in here in being part of the top 30 most consistent players of the year and the best players of the yea,” Woods said about the TOUR Championship. “No exemptions into this event. Either you get here or you don’t. It’s a very hard line.”

For many, it is an outright shock that the two-time FedEx Cup Champion is back after he left the game following multiple injuries and surgeries that included a spinal fusion in April of 2017.“I didn’t think I’d ever play again,” Woods said about his mindset in the past. “When I was laying on the ground and couldn’t move for a number of months, golf is the furthest thing from my mind. And to have gone through that and have gotten to this point, it’s been fun.”

While Tiger’s body may not be what it once was, the love for him from fans and media is as strong as ever. Media members filled the surrounding stalls where Tiger practiced fairway shots on Tuesday, then packed out the interview room on Wednesday morning for his first sit down of the week. At the conclusion, many media members –myself included– merged with fans pulling out cellphones to get a shot of Tiger; most likely for social media use.

Whereas many love Tiger for his play on the course, one of his most endearing skills –which was not always the case– has been his honesty and sincerity during interviews. His Wednesday morning presser gave a reminder of that very thing. When asked whether his back still drifts through his mind during play, a lingering issue that nearly ended Tiger’s career, he reminds us all pro or not that he’s no “spring chicken.”

 

“There are certain shots I still think about it,” Woods said. “More than anything, I just feel it. I’ll never be as flexible as I used to be. I can’t. It’s not moving. And so, there are things that I’m limited by. I get reminded every day when I wake up in the morning that this is not what it used to be. But it’s a hell of a lot better than it’s been the last few years.” Tiger’s words also serve as a reminder that, although he is American, he thinks outside the red, white and blue box.

During Wednesday’s presser, an interviewer asked Tiger’s thoughts on the World Cup of golf falling during Thanksgiving weekend; obviously looking for a complaint to come from the 42-year old. “I think a lot of it is dependent on what country you’re from,” Woods said. “For us as Americans, Thanksgiving is a very important time of the year for us. Other parts of the world probably don’t look at it that way, so probably it’s a little bit easier. Other players have different holidays. Fanny [Sunesson] is here; midsummer is a big deal. It depends on where you’re from, and for us, it’s a big deal here, and some of the guys that are going to head down there probably will bring their family along and enjoy it.”

 

Tiger is back mentally and physically. Maybe not one hundred percent, but the sport is undoubtedly better off while he’s still here. He will be paired with Tommy Fleetwood for round one of the TOUR Championship beginning Thursday at 12:30 pm ET.

 

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