Tiger Woods Steals The Show At Hero World Challenge

    The sport of golf has never been as universally popular as it was when Tiger Woods was redefining greatness and individual dominance in pro athletics. 

    For those who missed Tiger in his prime, or only know him through social media memes, negative tabloids concerning women, his failed marriage or his bizarre arrest while under the influence of some kind of pills, if the 42-year-old icon truly is healthier than hes been in a decade in mind, body and spirit and is playing golf at the throwback level that some around the golf community have said he is, before this weekend is over fans will get reacquainted with the most celebrated and influential sports figure in the last quarter century. 

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    Before his mighty fall from grace, Tiger was “The Brand.” Then he became some sort of a golf ghost. The headlines had turned from praise to poison and his golf game was grounded by injuries. 

    Apparently, all it took was a round of golf for the legend to become the toast of the town again. After shooting a round of 69 in the Hero World Challenge on Thursday, Woods’ first competitive round of golf in 301 days, he has the golf world in an uproar, reminding everyone that he has few equals when it comes to global interest and the guy who owns the world of golf. His swing looked vintage, and his putting game produced five birdies and two bogeys. 

    Sporting News on Twitter

    I thought I did great.” Tiger Woods is all smiles after he shoots a 69 in his return to golf at the #HeroWorldChallenge. https://t.co/MYdLsuJFH2

    No disrespect to the new young guns on the rise, who have patented their styles, bodies and minds after Tiger Woods, but still fall short of his level of dominance (14 majors), but if Tiger is actually competitive going into the final rounds of the tournament, the NFL schedule will undoubtedly be hijacked by the one golfer in history who could bring every nationality of people together, get them to turn off a major sporting event to watch a sudden-death golf showdown on Sunday afternoon.   

    Theres nothing like it. Not Jordan or LeBron, Game 7. Not Jeter in the clutch…nothing. 

    Tiger set the tone for the day by blasting his tee shot past Justin Thomas, the third-ranked player in the game. 

    It’s been forever since Woods won his 14th major golf title at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course on June 16, 2008, on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff against Rocco Mediate after the pair remained knotted after a thrilling 18-hole playoff.

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    Since then, injury, tragedy, domestic issues and bad decisions abruptly brought his golf empire down to its knees and Woods hasnt been the same player since. Hes only gotten older and his legacy a bit more tarnished by off-the-course incidents that his golf inactivity only compounded. 

    Negative news was the only news surrounding Tiger for the past decade. He has teased and promised comebacks before, only to be physically unable to carry out his goals. Most fans have moved on and considered his career over. 

    For a guy who was once on top of the world, friends, foes and fans alike had abandoned him and TMZ became his only shadow. 

    You saw the pictures of him looking out of it, and the video of the police approaching his car and the drugged state Tiger was in. 

    On Thursday, he was able to finally compete and complete his day on the golf course. He did it with no pain, no anxiety and no pressure. He also outperformed most peoples low expectations, which has naturally created a buzz on social media and even garnered him some props from his notorious haters. 

    Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee has been very critical of Woods fall from grace, dating back to 2013 when Tiger was still decent. Despite his successful season – one in which Woods won five times, collected his 11th Player of the year Award and seemed to be regaining his immortal swag – Chamblee gave Woods an F grade for the campaign and called him a cheater. He also became the go-to guy for news outlets looking to bury Woods into the ground.

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    On Thursday, Chamblee toured the radio circuit and had some glowing things to say about Tigers comeback opening performance. 

    If youve been asleep for the last eight years and you woke up and the last time you saw Tiger Woods play was in 2009 youd think, whats the big deal? Thats exactly the same guy,” Chamblee said.

    Chamblees assertion is surely a 360 from his past opinions on Woods, which gives even more credence to the over-the-top sports commentary thats circulating, saying Tigers Back.

    Robert Lepelstat on Twitter

    Golf is at it’s best when Tiger Woods is back. And fist pumping. #TigersBack #TheReturn https://t.co/krRTgauw5v

    This was far better than I expected,” Chamblee continued. “I gave him an A. Only reason I didnt give him an A-plus, he didnt chip the ball particularly well. But this is the best Ive seen him swing since before all the injuries and before all that stuff that everybody would rather really not want to talk about.

    While it is only one round of golf, Tiger is still Tiger and if he can sustain this and challenge for the win, talks of him competing for majors again will soon follow. The eyes of the sports world will be focused on him. Can the legendary golfer, one of the most celebrated and googled athletes to ever walk on land complete a comeback in these late stages of his golf life? Has he finally exorcised all of his demons and put the death of his father behind him ? Will the golf gods bless him with one last run and one last chance to redefine his legacy, and maybe even take a shot at Jack Nicklaus 18 career majors? 

    PGA TOUR on Twitter

    Back-to-back birdies. @TigerWoods is one shot off the lead at the Hero World Challenge. #QuickHits https://t.co/4HSBUi7E0M

    Once upon a time, it was only a question of when Tiger would break it. Then it became if Tiger would break it. Now folks just want to see a golfing ghost reappear as a mentally focused man capable of completing a competitive three rounds of golf. Sports needs Tiger Woods right now. The way folks are blowing up one very good round of golf is proof. 

    Boston Herald on Twitter

    @RonBorges: Tiger Woods is back to save golf https://t.co/Amo7dzn2hS

    Golf needs him. Win or lose, at the end of the day, hes showing all of us that hes still got the juice and fans are desperate to drink it. Should be a fun weekend. 

    JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.