I realize what I’m about to write is going to sound ludicrous — and that’s fine — but this 152-second video of Tiger Woods doing Tiger Woods things in Japan has me more optimistic about his 2019-20 PGA Tour season than anything else I’ve seen or heard this offseason.
Whew, that feels better.
Woods is in Japan, of course, because he participated in Monday’s The Challenge: Japan Skins with Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama and will play in the inaugural Zozo Championship starting Wednesday evening. He appears to be doing the full car wash, though. Between media stops, clinics and rock, paper, scissors games with children, Woods is all over the place.
This is what happens when the most iconic golfer ever hasn’t played an event in a country in a decade and a half. One of his quotes somewhere within the madness caught my eye, too.
“I’m excited about having this end-of-the-year run where I’m feeling much more fit,” Woods told Golf Digest. “I don’t have the achiness that I’ve been dealing with for the last couple years.”
At first glance, it looks like a run-of-the-mill Woods quote that says nothing at all, but as I watched the video below I started to believe him. At the end of last season, Woods was broken. He was beat down physically, mentally and spiritually. Every time I saw him, whether he was walking from the parking lot to the clubhouse or down the 7th fairway, he looked brittle and old.
Here? Here he looks young, lithe and excited about life. He doesn’t look … absolutely exhausted all the time. I don’t know the reason for the switch, whether it was his knee surgery after the season or simply a little time off, but this is not the same Big Cat we saw in June, July and August.
Here’s where it gets tricky though. Are we really going to play armchair quarterback on a guy giving clinics halfway around the world? Sure we are. The reason is because I don’t know what to believe anymore in press conferences and interviews. Things change quickly. Not just with Tiger but with all athletes.
So — and this is especially true of someone as guarded as Cat — you have to trust your eyes, and my eyes tell me that Woods looks, feels and (possibly even) is good to go for the season. Seriously, look at the video. He looks 27, not 43!
It’s not just a “hanging out in public” thing either. Watch his first drive in this highlight video from the skins competition with McIlroy, Day and Matsuyama.
Now compare that to this drive at the BMW Championship last season.
He looks so much more free in the first video than the second. Particularly in the follow-through. His entire body rotates around in a way that just wasn’t happening at the BMW. The differences aren’t huge, but I think they’re there. Here’s a closer look at a screenshot of the two swings. BMW on top, Japan on bottom. His body rotates far more in Japan than at the BMW.
Of course, this might all be nonsense and Woods might be back on the injured list after this tournament. But I do think he means it when he says he’s fit and feeling good. Whether that translates to good golf remains to be seen, but all the evidence we have in the history of his life points to the fact that it will because it always has. The only roadblock to Woods winning at the highest level has been his body. If he’s solved that (at least in the short term), 2019-20 might be a better season than we previously thought.