Tiger Woods is facing a huge challenge to return to the top of the game after he confirmed he was not fit enough to take part in this year’s Masters that will get under way at Augusta on Thursday, but three-time major champion Padraig Harrington has told Yahoo Sport that the former world No.1 will still add to his collection of 14 major titles.
It may seem as if we have seen the last of Tiger Woods winning major titles – but I think he still has a final big one left in him.
History shows that the greats of golf tend to get a chance to pick up one last major at the back end of their careers and as we have seen the Jack Nicklaus winning a the Masters in 1986 when he was effectively retired in and even Tom Watson going so close to winning The Open a few years back, the greats tend to have one final hurrah in this game.
That’s why I remain hopeful that we will see Tiger mixing it at the top of leaderboards in the big events at some point in the future, but he is trying to make his latest comeback under the kind of pressure no one else has ever experienced in the history of the game.
The next time Tiger tees it up in any tournament around the world, he will be the biggest story in golf and that is one of the problems he is dealing with as he tries to kick-start his career.
Every time he has attempted to make a comeback from his injuries over the last couple of years, I have been the first one to sit down in front of my TV to watch, to see every shot he hits and assess where he is. That is the pulling power Tiger will always command, with every golf fan wanting to see him back where he was when he was in his pomp.
Tiger is the best golfer I have ever seen when it comes to taking time off from the game and then coming back in the kind of form ready to win major titles. He could take three or four weeks off before a big event and not need any time to get back into a competitive groove, but it is obviously getting more difficult to do that when you are out for as long as he has been in recent years.
He has barely played competitively in a long time now and even if he is one of the all-time greats, he needs to be given time to try and get this latest comeback right.
In an ideal world, Tiger would come quietly and with limited expectations, but we all know that simply cannot happen.
Anything less than a top 10 finish would be viewed as failure for Woods and this is a tough standard to live up, even for a player of his ability. Success for any other golfer making a comeback from injury would be to make the cut, to make the top ten, but Tiger is different to the rest of us.
Tiger has always operated in a very different atmosphere compared to the rest of us and if it was up to me, I’d tell him to get himself fully ready this time before trying to rush yourself back for a major.
He should play some serious money matches against top players to get himself really competitive. Prove to yourself that you can beat people down the stretch once again because when you are playing for your own money, you are under more pressure than playing in tournaments. That is a way of getting himself competitive for when he comes back.
One problem Tiger will have is the game has moved on from when he knew his B-game was god enough to beat the rest of the field.
Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and plenty more are hitting the ball much further than Tiger now and that will be a shock to the system. Woods used to be the guy marching past people on the fairway, but even Phil Mickelson will be hitting it past him now.
That is hard to take, but we write Tiger Woods off at our peril.
The true greats have a special magic the rest lack and for that reason alone, I’m predicting there is still at least one major championship left in his magnificent career.
Sky Sports will show all four days of The Masters live with Padraig Harrington joining its commentary team at Augusta.