Minggu, 28 Januari 2018

Two Promising Returns to Action

The Limerick Summary is delayed because the Farmers playoff resumes this morning at 11am ET. So I'm doing Tuesday's post a day early.

Tiger and Rory

It's been at least a year since both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were healthy enough to make their presence felt on the world.stage. Now we've seen each play in two events -- Tiger in the Bahamas and at Torrey, Rory at Abu Dhabi and Dubai -- and 2018 looks promising for each.

Tiger's play at Torrey this past week has been -- and will continue to be -- analyzed ad nauseam. But the results are pretty clear to anyone willing to look. Despite problems with his full shots in general and his driving in particular, Tiger managed to make his first cut since the Windham in 2015. Who didn't make it? Here are a few names you may recognize:
  • Sangmoon Bae
  • Jhonattan Vegas
  • Ollie Schneiderjans
  • Wee Kim
  • Xander Schauffele
  • Rickie Fowler
In addition, his T23 (-3) finish tied Patrick Reed and beat Jon Rahm. Think about that -- with all his struggles, Tiger still managed a Top25 finish in his first official event back on a tough course, and at one point he was T16 at -5. (Had he held that score, he would have finished T12.) Not a bad showing!

Not only that, but he laid to rest most of the questions about his short game and putting. He also answered those who doubted he still had the will to grind, the desire to do his best no matter how hard the road. And now he has a couple of weeks to work on the things he learned this week (like bad driving!) before he tees it up at Riviera.

Yes, very promising.

As for Rory, he has a T3 and a runner-up finish in his two starts. That should end the questions about whether he's healthy or not. His game appears to be firing on all cylinders, and he -- like Tiger -- seems to have found his "happy place."

If any question remains unanswered, it's about his ability to close out tournaments... but I don't think that one will last too long. Rory has never been like Tiger -- he's more like Phil. He's streaky and tends to make the occasional bad decision that costs him the win. But he will make fewer of them as he gets back into the rhythm of a full schedule, just as Tiger will make fewer bad shots as he regains his feel for tournament golf.

It's so easy to forget how hard it is to be great, no matter what field you compete in. Tiger noted that Roger Federer picked up his 20th Grand Slam title this weekend at age 36, but 36 is old for a tennis player. Tiger isn't old for a golfer, and Rory even younger, but the challenges for all three are similar. There is always another challenger, one with a different set of skills and something to prove. No matter how talented you are, success is never as easy as it may look. Even the greats like Tiger and Rory need "reps" in order to reach their potential. January is just the beginning of their returns to greatness.

But I suspect it won't be long before the rest of the Tours wish both had stayed on the sidelines a bit longer.

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