Can Tiger Woods get his form back on the golf course?
Newly divorced Tiger Woods will tee off as a single man on Thursday for the first time since the Amex Championship in 2004.
That week, in Cork Harbour, Ireland, Woods finished ninth. Then such a result was regarded as something of a setback. At The Barclays this week it would be considered a turnaround.
And perhaps that is what the Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey will witness, now that the line has been drawn and the pretending can stop. But then, that hope must be classed among the hopelessly forlorn. The Woods inquisition - which has seemed to have lasted the full four months since his return from his self-enforced exile – is bound to gain a fresh fervour.
This week, if he consents to appear before the media, he will face the questions of how he intends to rebuild his life. Expect to hear the phrase "each day I'll just try to become a better father and a better person" on more than one occasion. The golf fanatics will roll their eyes. All they'll want to know is what it will take to become the world's best golfer once again.
But the two will be linked, even if a halo never has been a vital part of a professional's apparel. To understand how the split at home has affected his game one only needs to look at the time around the Open Championship. Six weeks ago, everyone was wondering why he felt forced to return to Orlando from the JP McManus Invitational in Limerick for a four-day spell, before flying back over to Scotland. "To see my kids," he said. Woods neglected to explain he was also attending a four-hour parenting course as part of the divorce agreement.
With all this going on in the background, his tie for 23rd at St Andrews is put in its perspective. His friends were not so secretive about the debilitating effect of the negotiations concerning not only the astronomical sums involved but also the complexities of access to his two children. They saw the experts speculating how Woods could have fallen so far and a few were keen to explain the simple factor pushing him.
"There's nothing wrong with his swing," said David Feherty, the Ulster pro turned TV pundit. "There's nothing wrong with anything except the head full of slamming doors that you have when you go through a divorce. Golf is not a reaction sport. There's a lot of time for your mind to wander and anytime you get children involved it's a rough time in your life."
Woods, himself, has admitted that he has simply not had the required spells on the range. He also said it was right he never returned to his old exhaustive drills as he makes the windows to spend time with his son and daughter. At least he does not have to spend so long in the company of lawyers any more – and we can only guesstimate the hours he has expended with the attorneys.
Woods should at last be able to reintroduce the structure into his schedule. And if there was one thing this perfectionist always did crave - away from the anarchy of his vice, of course - was the structure. Both in the guarding of his secrecy and the meticulousness of his preparation.
But how long will it take, when will the predicted calming of the waters see him buoyant again? Well, the rest of this season depends on this very week as if he bombs out of this first play-off event then that could effectively be that. Certainly from the dollar-spinning FedEx Cup which may just assume more importance in his finances – and probably from the Ryder Cup. Maybe Woods could do without the biennial spectacular, with the players' wives performing their irrelevant but unignorable roles.
Maybe he could do without having to stroll up the red carpet being chaperoned by the well-meaning partner of a team-mate. Tiger could probably do with walking alone again.