Tiger ready for action and confident he can win
Santa Claus is hibernating after his usual busy Christmas, but golfers young and old are counting down the number of sleeps left before Tiger Woods returns to active duty on the PGA Tour in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
Sound the trumpets and blow the horns if you're a TV network executive because Tiger in competitive mode means a surge in ratings.
Woods revealed yesterday that he recently played 18 holes with US President-elect Donald Trump, but golf fans around the world will be more excited by the prospect of the game's most marketable star going head-to-head once again with the next generation of young guns.
Between now and January 26, there are just 20 nights to pass in peaceful slumber before the return of Woods to the fairways.
The days? Well, many of them will be taken up with intense speculation about the state of Tiger's back after a 15-month lay-off - bar his appearance in the limited-field Hero World Challenge in December.
Debate will also focus on the quality of his game and his prospects of lifting a Tour win and/or a 15th Major title.
Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and the other top players will find their jaws ache answering the mandatory question at every media conference they attend between now and the start of the Farmers: "what do you think of Tiger's return?"
Probably the golfers and their caddies, coaches and managers will have little bets among themselves as to how long it takes for the 'Tiger question' to be asked at a media event.
The man himself has clearly answered his own questions about fitness by committing to playing four times in five weeks, starting with the Farmers.
Next up is the Dubai Desert Classic on the European tour (February 2), followed by the Genesis Open at Riviera (February 16), and then The Honda Classic on February 23.
Woods (41) said on his website: "I thought what I did at the Hero World Challenge was a positive step. I just need to keep building off that and eliminate the simple mistakes I made.
"My goal (for 2017) is simple: to win. Winning takes care of itself. There is great reason for optimism."
On the wider front, the Woods factor adds another big talking point for golf, and from the point of view of new PGA tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who has succeeded Tim Finchem, the publicity is all good for business.
Monahan is well aware of the need to promote his Tour and occupy the attention of television viewers, which is a key reason in his putting forward suggestions that the US PGA Championship could be moved from its traditional August date back to May.
Monahan told the Wall Street Journal that he would like the FedEx Cup play-offs completed by August prior to the start of the NFL and college football campaigns.
"That's certainly something that we would like to see happen," he said. "Having big events every month, culminating in the FedEx Cup play-offs in August prior to the NFL season, that would be a very powerful schedule."
Monahan would also like to see The Players Championship, often dubbed 'the fifth Major' occupy a slot earlier in the year, probably March, instead of its current date in May.
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