Tiger Woods has somewhat strangely become a mentor of sorts to the younger generation on the PGA Tour. Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day have all cited Woods' influence on their lives both growing up playing golf, and now as they try and navigate a professional world rife with potholes.
Woods has never been the most affable pro athlete around, but even he seems to be embracing the role.
"My relationship with a lot of these players have gotten closer," said Woods at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month. "Either through hanging out at the restaurant at home, at the Woods Jupiter, or if it's out playing at Medalist or the Ryder Cup, going out to dinner and BS'ing, it's been fun. But this part of it, competing, it's a different story."
That it is. Woods will turn 41 at the end of December and golf does not treat the aging superstar well at all. Of the 224 major championships played since 1960, only 21 have been won by golfers 40 or older (and one happened this year with Henrik Stenson at the Open Championship).
"Time is not on his side," world No. 1 Jason Day told USA Today recently. He's going to be 41 soon. In a selfish way, I want him to come back. I want to try and beat him at his best. It would be great to see him have one last shot at trying to break Jack's record [of 18 majors]."
Of course we all want to see Tiger make a run at Nicklaus' 18 majors, but did you see what Day said in the middle there? I want to try and beat him at his best.
This is why 2017 has a chance to be a dream season in golf. On one side you have the aging (and ailing) Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson grasping for one last brilliant stroke. On the other side, you have a lethal crop of young potential future Hall of Famers in Day, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson. There is nothing better than watching the old guard try and stave off the young and hungry.
Especially when Tiger Woods is involved.
"I think it was a dream for all of us young guys to one day grow up and battle Tiger on a Sunday when he was playing his best, and see if you can Y.E. Yang it, see if you can pull off a shot where you can take him down," Spieth said recently. "That's a dream for all of us, too."
It's a dream for those of us watching as well. Consider this: The last time Woods won (August 2013), Spieth had a total of six top-10 finishes in his career. With the way Woods played at the Hero World Challenge (well), this dream of Spieth vs. Tiger or D.J. vs. Tiger doesn't really seem that far-fetched, either. It could begin at the Genesis Open in February 2017.
Tiger wants it as badly as the kids do.
"Pat [Reed is] very similar to how I am, that he just wants to win," said Woods at the Hero World Challenge. "To him, improving and practicing and playing golf tournaments and trying to win is fun. You know, all the other stuff that comes along with it, I've never been fond of it but obviously I know it's the responsibility that comes along with it. He understands that as well, but he just wants to win golf tournaments. There's nothing wrong with that."