I wrote the following prior to Tiger's withdrawal from the Safeway Open. Most of the content is still relevant for whenever he decides to return. Golf Digest reported that Tiger is healthy, but that his game, particularly around the greens, isn't quite ready for him to compete on the PGA Tour. He'll most likely return at his own Hero Challenge in December, also skipping an event in Turkey that he had hoped to compete in.
Tiger's Back: After more than fourteen months away from the game, Tiger Woods will tee it up Thursday in the Safeway Open, the first event on the 2017 PGA Tour schedule. I know it's still 2016, but the Tour began wrap around schedule a couple of years ago to add more importance to the events that occur between the Tour Championship and the end of the calendar year. Woods will be paired with Phil Mickelson for the first two rounds, something that Mickelson had requested. The former dominant player and the fan's favorite playing in the same group will surely add some interest to an event that would otherwise go largely unnoticed by the non-golfing world. But with Woods attempting another comeback (I've lost count of the number), this time from injury, and most likely with a new manufacturers clubs in his bag, Thursday's and Friday's action will be getting a lot of attention. Speculation abounds regarding the state of Tiger's golf game. Fellow pro Jesper Parnevik commented last week that he had seen Woods hit the ball recently and that apparently he looks like the Tiger of old. It remains to be seen if he turns out to just be old Tiger instead, but despite the popularity of Mickelson, Jordan Speith, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler and Bubba Watson, none of them have the ability to move the ratings needle like Tiger Woods. Coming off an exciting Ryder Cup, golf can certainly use Woods' return to keep the momentum going. Can Tiger win again? Well, as recently as 2013 he was still dominant, winning five times, so the answer is probably yes. The more important question is whether he still has a shot at Jack Nicklaus' eighteen career major titles. Given that golfers tend to tail off after they turn forty, it's unlikely. But we're not talking about any normal, or even really good player here. From 1999 to 2008, Tiger Woods, as I've written and justified before, was the most dominating golfer in history. His competitive drive, shotmaking and putting put him literally in a class by himself. If he remains healthy and gets on a roll, it's possible he could give Jack's record a run. As a fan of the game of golf, I hope he at least gets back in the competitive mix, especially at the majors.
MLB Playoffs in Full Swing: With the Toronto Blue Jays already in the ALCS and the Cubs and Indians holding 2 - 0 leads in their best of five series, it's time to take a look at major league baseball. Of course the big story line is the Cubs' and whether or not they can break their 108 year World Series victory drought. While that is getting a lot of attention, the Cleveland Indians, who have a 70 year streak of their own, seem to be a little under the radar. After the Cavaliers won the NBA title earlier this year to end the city's 52 lack of championships, some of the pressure is off of the Indians. Can they rise to the occasion and follow in the Cavs' footsteps? In baseball, it's always possible. A couple of hot pitchers can carry a team a long way in the postseason, much like a hot goalie can do in hockey. I thought the toughest series for the Cubs would be the first one against the Giants, a team that has won the last three World Series contested in even-numbered years. But that hasn't been the case, at least not yet, so I still like Chicago with their lethal combination of hitting and pitching. But it's baseball, which explains why the Florida Marlins have two titles and the Indians and Cubs have gone 0 for 178.
Houston Does it Again: For the second consecutive season, high-flying Houston of college football's American Athletic Conference lost a road game to a lesser regarded team to lose a chance to crash the College Football Playoff party. I'm sure the committee is heaving a collective sigh of relief because even if the Cougars manage to defeat Louisville later in the season, they are probably out of consideration for a coveted spot in the four-team playoff field. With teams like Michigan, Ohio State and Louisville likely to emerge with no more than one loss, it would be difficult for the committee to take a team with one loss from outside the power five conferences. Coming into Saturday's game, Houston had boasted a stingy running defense. But Navy was able to expose it, and more importantly keep the game close so they didn't have to abandon their own running attack, which is difficult to prepare for and defend. I still think Houston has a very good team and stand a good chance of challenging Louisville, but they've lost their opportunity to go undefeated and make the committee's job all that much tougher.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.