Johannesburg - Golf fans are probably waiting to see if 2018 will be Tiger Woods’ year.
Judging by the statement he posted on his website a few days ago, the 14-time major champion is determined to do well this year.
“I am very optimistic about 2018 and looking forward to great things,” Woods said in the post.
It has been a decade since he last won a major and four years since he took first place in any of the tournaments he competed in.
Increase in viewership
When his infidelity was exposed in 2009, his career took a massive knock.
The golfer also underwent multiple back surgeries, the last of which left him unable to do much for six months.
Despite all this, when he made a comeback last month, there was lots of buzz and people were eager to see him play.
TV ratings drop when he’s not playing, but skyrocket when he is on the golf course.
Speaking ahead of the Albany event in November, Golf Channel executive producer Molly Solomon told Reuters that she expected Woods’ presence to boost the network’s ratings by as much as 40%.
According to the channel, last year’s Hero World Challenge saw a 29% increase in viewership and it was second only to the Open Championship in terms of popularity.
This is why golf needs a competitive Woods. His good form is not just good for his fans, but for the sport itself.
It is usually said that no individual is bigger than any sport or organisation, but Woods could be gearing up for legendary status before he finally calls it quits.
In terms of achievements and popularity, he is in the same league as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The greatest athletes list is short and brings to mind a verse in the Bible that says that “many are called and few are chosen”.
Woods easily fits into the category of the chosen.
Forefront of excitement
At the height of his success, he was hounded by sponsors and signed record-breaking deals that made him the most marketable athlete on the planet.
He was the highest-paid athlete in the world for 11 years.
In 2009, Forbes Magazine reported that Woods was the first athlete to make $1 billion (R12.3 billion at today’s exchange rate), beating basketball star Jordan and Formula One racing legend Michael Schumacher.
His colleagues believe Woods still has an integral part to play in the sport.
Seven-time PGA Tour winner Justin Thomas said: “The golf ball doesn’t know how old you are. There’s no reason you can’t do something because you’re a certain age".
Speaking to reporters at the Sentry Tournament a few days ago, 2015 US Open winner Jordan Spieth described Woods’ potential comeback as the “major question” heading into this year’s golf season.
“I think Tiger’s return and the excitement based on how he looked [at the Hero World Challenge] is probably first and foremost,” Spieth said.
“I think that, realistically, I can say that based on what he does for ratings and what it does for maybe a non-golfer’s interest in golf, it’s got to be at the forefront of the excitement".
Good for the game
There are a number of high-profile players who were older than 42 when they won majors.
Julius Boros holds the record as the oldest major championship winner – he was 48 when he won the PGA Championship in 1968.
Golf legend Sam Snead was 52-years-old when he won the Greater Greensboro Open in 1965.
Most recently, at the age of 51, American Davis Love III snatched the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
Woods has won 79 PGA Tour events, and comes second to 82-time winner Sam Snead.
Woods revealed on his Twitter account that he would participate in the Farmers Insurance Open from January 25. He will also play in the Genesis Open at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles next month.
World No 1 Dustin Johnson said: “His return is good for everybody. It’s good for the game".