On Thursday we got a sudden jolt of news: Tiger Woods is doing it again.
The jet-trackers fired up their radar to find that Woods’ plane was coming out of the hangar, then leaving Florida, then landing in Tulsa. A trip to Southern Hills, site of next month’s PGA Championship, was underway.
We’ve gotten used to the progression of events that followed: Woods’ plane touched down on the tarmac and the local news was there to greet him. Social media videos started to leak from the course itself. Golf Channel reported that Southern Hills head pro Cary Cozby was caddying for him. Golf Digest reported Woods’ stated intention to play the PGA Championship. It was on.
It’s no shocker to see Woods at Southern Hills. It makes sense. We heard him say at the Masters that he was hoping to play. We knew he’d signed up for the event. We know Woods cares about major championships. And we know Woods plans to play an extremely selective schedule going forward — a schedule that would presumably include as many majors as possible. Still, the idea that he is just…back? It takes some getting used to.
After all, what was so surprising about Tiger Woods’ Masters appearance is that it was so surprising.
We didn’t know he was even considering teeing it up until the week beforehand, when he made a similar scouting trip. Woods isn’t the type to post Instagram stories of his rehab progress, but still — the consensus was that he’d been through too much. He hadn’t practiced enough. He wasn’t ready. His injury was too severe and Augusta was too hilly and you can’t really just pop up to randomly play the Masters, after all.
But that’s what Woods did. The crowds followed, sensing they were seeing something miraculous. Here, 14 months after he’d nearly lost his leg, the greatest golfer of his generation was returning on the game’s biggest stage — even though he had no clue how he’d fare. His Monday practice round was a Tiger Festival, with spectators rejoicing in his vitality. The entire week felt surreal, like it was a one-off. We hadn’t known for sure that we’d ever see Woods compete in another big-time event. Here he was.