The last 10 days have provided a total roller coaster of emotions when it comes to Tiger Woods. A year that has been mostly devoid of his name in the headlines has now been marked at the end by a compression of information that engenders all kinds of thoughts, feelings and opinions.
On Nov. 21, Woods posted a video of him hitting a short iron on a range, which was the firs time the broader public had seen him on video since his horrific car accident at the end of February.
On Monday an interview with Golf Digest dropped, and Woods seemed almost pensive about the present and nearly dismissive about the future. He said he didn't have to scale Mount Everest again and opined about chirping birds and the feel of laying down on the grass in his backyard.
"I can still participate in the game of golf," Woods told Golf Digest. "I can still, if my leg gets OK, I can still click off a tournament here or there. But as far as climbing the mountain again and getting all the way to the top, I don't think that's a realistic expectation of me."
On Tuesday, Nov. 30, Woods spoke to the press in public for the first time in 2021. He wouldn't answer questions about his car wreck ("all those answers have been answered in the investigation"), but he did double down on his desire (or lack thereof).
"I got that last major and I ticked off two more events along the way," Woods said. "I don't foresee this leg ever being what it used to be, hence I'll never have the back what it used to be, and clock's ticking. I'm getting older, I'm not getting any younger. All that combined means that a full schedule and a full practice schedule and the recovery that it would take to do that, no, I don't have any desire to do that."
Then on Wednesday, the PGA Tour posted a longer video of Woods hitting 3-woods on the range at Albany Golf Course, where he is hosting the Hero World Challenge this week, and everything he said in the two days prior completely evaporated.
Full swing Woods. pic.twitter.com/oTAoL7eeCa— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 2, 2021
Tiger talked on Tuesday like a man who could potentially play on the PGA Tour again in the future but never with the aplomb he once had, even by more recent standards. And while popping a few 3-woods with nobody else around is a far cry from the toil of grinding through PGA Tour and major championship weeks, Tiger's swing still looks really good and he does not move like a man who had a 50% chance of losing his leg just 10 months ago.
Though this video will (and maybe even should!) engender a ton of optimism about Tiger's future, it still fits in with the narrative he's been professing. Tiger never said he couldn't hit a golf ball, but he did imply that the grueling nature of preparing his body, his mind and his heart to re-enter the arena at the age of 46 is not as alluring as it was even a few years ago. He also said that he's not even sure his body will allow him to put the preparatory work in that would be necessary to raise his game to the level he needs it to be at to contend in events.
Still, this should be encouraging, and perhaps Tiger is playing us all one final time. His golf wisdom and mental discipline are both off the charts and could allow him to contend at events in the future even without his best stuff. Nobody knows about that, perhaps not even Tiger. What we do know -- what this last 10 days has taught us -- is that even after a year of absence and even with a murky future, Tiger still still holds a sway and an intrigue that few athletes in history have ever held. He might be tired of us hanging on every word and every shot, but even after 25 years of this, we've learned that our hunger for him to do it one more time remains completely limitless.