Will the new Woods, who has replaced everyone from his inner circle, who choked up while apologizing for his infidelities, who fell to 52nd in the world and who has collapsed when in contention in recent majors, have to go through the same wall as a far younger player trying for major No. 1?
Is the doubt-free, indomitable Old Tiger still available in moments of crisis to New Tiger? We all know the answer to that. He’s not. No Sunday at a major will ever look easy again for him. That just ups the drama.
Finally, does Woods believe, deep down, that he deserves golf’s greatest distinction? Guilt could trip him, even guilt toward the game he damaged more than that fire hydrant outside his home in 2009. But it’s just as likely that he feels pride in facing so many crises and emerging as his own re-formed man.
Many champions have said that a prerequisite to winning majors is the state of your golf; but the rest of the battle is the state of your psyche. Where is Tiger’s? A publicly acknowledged relationship with someone as accomplished and respected as Vonn, who’s also divorced, may hint that Woods is not sabotaging himself.
If Woods had never regained the golf gifts that most define him, it would have been a pitiable example of a fate so harsh it exceeded any of his misbehavior. Now, after more than four years of waiting, that has changed.
“I’m really excited about the rest of this year,” Woods said this week.
He means far more than that. His 40 months in a self-inflicted, mid-life re-examination have left Woods a more complex, flawed and vulnerable man, but a no less fascinating protagonist. Now, the golf world can’t wait for the rest of his year — no, his whole career — to resume once more.