Sarah Stirk on the Hero World Challenge: All eyes on Tiger but my money will be elsewhere
This week marks the latest return of Tiger Wood to tournament action - that's tremendously exciting for Sarah Stirk but she won't be backing the great man in her final tipping column of 2017...
"We've heard the comments from his fellow pros about how far he is driving the ball, how his swing looks reminiscent of the old Tiger but we can't get ahead of ourselves. He needs a good run of events and plenty of rounds of competitive golf."
In case you hadn't heard Tiger returns to action this week in his home event in the Bahamas! As usual with any Woods comeback there's feverish excitement and I for one can't wait. I covered the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year when an uncomfortable looking Tiger hobbled nervously down the fairways and then unsurprisingly packed his bags and headed home early. We haven't seen him since apart from that infamous late night arrest by the Floridian police.
The overriding factor jumping out this time around is he sounds totally pain free and swinging with carefree abandonment, something he hasn't had or felt for years. Given that the signs are very positive, the thing we all need to do now is give him time.
We've heard the comments from his fellow pros about how far he is driving the ball, how his swing looks reminiscent of the old Tiger but we can't get ahead of ourselves. He needs a good run of events and plenty of rounds of competitive golf. By his admission it will feel strange with a card in hand and it will take time to get used to the rhythms of tournament golf again.
For me it will be interesting how his schedule pans out over the next few months, I feel he needs to factor in some easier layouts to his schedule to build confidence and game time. One thing is for sure the world will be watching this week and the sport with Tiger back can only be a good thing.
The physical demands of golf have changed significantly in recent years, the young twenty-somethings are hungry and in the shape of their lives. Tiger turns 42 in December, his body has been through the mill following four major back surgeries but regarding my last point on Tiger, I'll leave you with this: Jack Nicklaus won his 18th major at the 1986 Masters at the age 46, Gary Player his ninth with a closing 64 at the 1978 Masters aged 42 and Lee Trevino his sixth at the 1984 PGA Championship at 44 years of age.
In terms of the other competitors in this limited 18-man field, here are my picks.
Sarah's selections for the Hero World Challenge
Back Justin Rose each-way @ 9/1
My pick to win given the hot run of form the Englishman is in and the fact the Bahamas is a home game for him. I love the fact he's paired with fellow countryman Tommy Fleetwood, after the two of them went head-to-head in the battle for European number one. Rose is in the form of his life following back to back wins in China and Turkey and a great showing in Dubai.
Back Dustin Johnson each-way @ 6/1
I'm not really sticking my neck out here but I'm opting for DJ as my other each way pick. Again he has a comfortable pairing alongside his good friend Brooks Koepka and is fresh having rested since finishing joint runner up at the WGC-HSBC Champions. The world number one was tied for third at Albany a year ago.
Back Francesco Molinari each-way @ 25/1
I'm looking for a big week from the Italian on a big time stage. He's been in consistently brilliant form all season and reaping the benefits of some great work with the performance guru Dave Alred. I like Frankie as a good each-way bet this week.