On Thursday, Tiger Woods makes his highly anticipated return to Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England, as he's set to make his first start of the year in a major.
The last time Woods won an Open Championship was in 2006 at Royal Liverpool, but this year comes with a new challenge.
Woods will be under a heavy amount of pressure due to his personal British Open feed on ESPN3.
USA Today tweeted the details:
ESPN will have Tiger-only broadcast for British Open http://t.co/p2uUwRuait— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 10, 2014
This will give us a close look at golf's most polarizing figure, as each stoke he accumulates over the tournament will be available for viewing—and scrutiny.
Woods was already under a great deal of duress due to his ongoing recovery from back surgery. He made a brief appearance at the Quicken Loans National this year, but after rounds of 74 and 75, he missed the cut, failing to gain momentum and confidence heading into the upcoming major.
Will Tiger make the cut?
Due to his injury and recent on-course struggles, Woods lost his grasp of the world's No. 1 ranking and now sits at No. 7 overall.
These factors alone give Woods plenty to overcome, but the addition of his own personal feed on ESPN just adds to the pressure.
So, is it realistic to think Tiger can actually compete in the 2014 Open Championship?
Former coach Hank Haney recently gave his thoughts on Woods during an interview with The Scotsman, via Farrell Evans of ESPN.com:
That he isn't going to play competitively in the two weeks running up to the Open speaks to the fact that he doesn't care as much as he used to. Still, you can't win if you don't enter. Maybe he will catch lightning in a bottle. But I really think he is using the Open to get ready for the PGA at Valhalla next month. That's a much more realistic target for him.
He hasn't practiced much for almost a year now. He took time off at the end of last season, played a bit, then got hurt. So he is way behind in his preparation. It says a lot about him that he spent this past week with his kids. That will make him a better person, but it won't make him a better golfer.
What is weird to me is that some people think he is the only guy in the world who doesn't have to practice. He does. He has good reasons not to practice—being with his kids is a good reason. And so is injury. And rehab. They are all valid. But it still adds up to not practicing.
According to a tweet from the Golf Channel, former major winner Curtis Strange doesn't think too highly of Woods' chances, either:
Bad odds? Curtis Strange says don’t bet your house on Tiger Woods at Hoylake: http://t.co/92vmTJe7gE— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) July 8, 2014
Now, every potential flaw in Tiger's game due to his lack of preparation will be visible for anyone interested. Rest assured, there will be an abundance of viewers.
This isn't to say a Tiger-only feed isn't a good idea. In fact, it should be safe to wonder why this idea hasn't come around sooner. But it does increase expectations for the former world No. 1 to perform, despite the fact that he's dealing with so much adversity heading into the major.
Well, ESPN is prepared in the event that Woods does struggle once more and misses the cut, stating, "If Woods does not advance to the weekend, other players will be spotlighted."
We will find out soon enough if Woods is ready to face the additional pressure of his return to major tournament action.