The question foremost in the minds of anyone who has ever held a golf club – or for that matter stayed up way past the witching hour to watch one of the premier professional tournaments – revolves round the name Tiger Woods.
In a career which started as a 20-year-old nearly 22 years ago, Woods has accomplished almost everything the game almost grudgingly grants only the greats in a fabled career which his playing charisma has almost single-handedly channelled into the game, making him the globe’s first billionaire sportsman.
During the first decade of his professional career, Woods was the world’s most marketable athlete.
Shortly after his 21st birthday in 1996, he signed endorsement deals with numerous companies, including General Motors, Titleist, General Mills, American Express, Accenture and Nike.
In 2000, he signed a five-year, $105 million contract extension with Nike, which was the largest endorsement package ever signed by a professional athlete at that time.
His ability – which has earned him 106 wins worldwide and a staggering 79 on the US PGA Tour to go with his 14 triumphs in the Majors, one of only five career Grand Slams in a list that includes Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, our own Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus – is unquestioned.
You only had to watch him go head-to-head with Ernie Els in the 2000 Presidents Cup “Duel in the Dusk” at Fancourt to recognise that.
But there was also a darker side to Tiger. His marriage to Elin Nordgren imploded and was splashed across the headlines of the world. Woods took a break from professional golf, underwent a series of back surgeries and all but disappeared into relative obscurity.
The shadows of the past lifted for a while last week as Woods went out in the Players Championship at Sawgrass and called back the past by shooting a third round 65. But, many would say predictably, he finished the tournament in 40th place.
But such is the endearing folk tale that is Tiger Woods that he is being tipped in some quarters as being ready to return to the winner’s circle. Remarkable as Tiger’s renaissance may be, don’t rush out and bet on it.
Time and the very fabric of the game stand against it.