David Howell: Tiger Woods!

Say no more. If I didn’t have to produce a somewhat readable column in Worldwide Golf, those two words would suffice in their own right in terms of the golfing narrative right now. I’d be quite happy with those words standing alone on the page. What else is there to say of any note?

Well, Justin Rose, of course, who became the World No.1 player. After a decade of steady improvement, the man from Hampshire has risen to the summit of the game. Justin’s troubles came before his pro career had even begun, but his famous 21 missed cuts run to start his career tells another story of perseverance and mental fortitude. All that seems like a lifetime ago, however. Unfortunately, it’s easy to make a case that Justin’s arrival at the summit has come just at the wrong time, you might say.

Not that there is ever a wrong time to become the number one player in the world, a lifetime’s work paying off in the most satisfying of ways – in fact $10 million of them after his colossal Fed Ex Cup bonus. Not many people in the history of the golfing world have been able to say: “I’m number one.” Justin Rose deserves all the plaudits that rightly will come his way, but I know that it is Justin’s inner voice that will be most powerful, his own acknowledgment that his dedication to the cause has paid off in the sweetest way possible, of being able to say three words with absolute clarity, ‘I’m the best’. What a truly amazing feat?

BAD TIMING FOR JUSTIN

However, for this to happen one week prior to Tiger Woods winning his first event in five years, well sorry Justin, your timing sucks. You should have been the big story, you really should have, but In saying that, what a thrill to turn the tables and try and chase down the greatest player of all time, as the number 1. Playing alongside Rory McIlroy of all people, the week before The Ryder Cup. Rose and McIlroy, two Europeans trying to break the hearts of American golf fans everywhere. In fact, scrap that comment. It should be two Europeans trying to break the hearts of golf fans everywhere in the final round of the Tour Championship.

Tiger has been the big story for 20 years. When he played terribly, through injury or self-inflicted pain, he still was the story. New pretenders came along, some with a hot putter, some with power to die for and now Justin with his Faldo-esque brilliance. But let’s face it, nobody has stolen the headlines away from Tiger. It’s true to say, he simply transcends his sport. He certainly creates interest beyond any one player since Arnold Palmer in his heyday. He’s just is an incredible sportsman.

Only 30 players get the right to play at East Lake Golf Club in the Tour Championship. After a long hard season, a few fade away, safe in the knowledge that they have had a great year, but boy did we have a grand finale. If there’s a golfer on this planet who wasn’t intrigued at the spectacle of Tiger winning again then I’d like to know their name.

Justin Rose stepped confidently onto the perfect stage: chase down Tiger; win the FED EX Cup and the $10 million bonus that comes with it, but in doing so, break the hearts of the masses.

LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY FOR RORY

Rory had the chance of his lifetime, too, to chase down the icon who inspired him to play the game, to remind the world of his own brilliance, to close out the season in grand style – but he had to get past one man.

The man who has had four back surgeries, who has had the ignominy of playing out his private life for all to see – the good and the bad, on and off the course for over two decades – but who has the resilience of someone from a different generation. Tiger is made of sterner stuff. Take away all the toys and all the money and you are left with a man who just loves to play golf, a man who takes pride in shooting as low a score as his game will allow. A man who doesn’t quit, who loves the game for all the right reasons. A man who isn’t ashamed of crying when he wins, because when the whole world is willing you on, no man can hide his emotions.

I made the above comment one day before his first victory in five years came at the Tour Championship. Like most people I just knew that he wouldn’t let this incredible storyline fade away into a podium finish. When I woke up to finish my case, I was not the least bit surprised to see the headlines: Tiger Woods wins his 80th PGA Tour Title.

So an English Rose took the honour of standing atop the world rankings, with Tiger Woods eyeing up his future with a glint in his eye. If 2018 was a good season for golf, 2019 could be a classic.

What would be the odds on Tiger getting back to his No.1 spot in the future? If his comeback victory proves to be a springboard to more success, then golf once again could be hitting the front pages let alone the sports supplements, 

As a golf fan as well as a player, I have to offer a genuine welcome back to golf’s greatest star.