Tiger Woods got hurt last year. He got hurt leading up to the U.S. Open. But he won the U.S. Open. He had, technically, a broken leg when he won that event. And he won that event in a playoff. So wait a second. Tiger had a broken leg, played four plus rounds of golf on a tough setup, and still wins? Anyway, that was over 8 months ago. But Tiger has made his come back. Playing in only his third tournament since his unfortunate time off, Tiger grabs his 6th victory at Bay Hill. This is actually the 4th time he has won the same event 6 times. Yeah, think about that for a second. It is facts like that that continue to boggle my mind of his pure talent. Oh, don’t forget, he is only 33 years old.
But anyway, today at the Bay Hill, they were speaking with the King himself, Mr. Arnold Palmer. They were asking him about his past struggles, his hopes, dreams, etc. on the tour and on the golf course. And being so humble he just kept going back to Tiger and his raw talent. Tiger came in to today, the fourth round for those that are not familiar with golf, five shots off the lead. He had never come back from a victory, to win, from that far down. Not at least in regulation. (He has come back to tie and head to a playoff only to loose, from that far down. But never to win.) And from the start Tiger was in control. He had some misses, three of which ended up in nearly the same spot (the lip of a bunker) but always managed to get out of them. He hits the ball into the trees, gets a shot to the green leading to a par. He yanks it into the rough, slams his club, and makes birdie. The guy is a machine with the club, sure, but his pure mental toughness is what I envy.
Coming down the stretch he made a bogey and put a little bit of hope into Sean O’Hair. Of course, they were so far ahead of the rest of the field, it was not a setting for a hero to come and beat both of them. And you know, I think Tiger likes it that way. I can not imagine being out on the course and someone throwing a low number on the board only to make you try to beat someone you are not playing. At leas this way Tiger had Sean right next to him to get under his skin the entire day. And that leads me to my next point.
(Before I go on, I want to touch on one more thing that Palmer said today. He was talking in his interview about how last year, when Tiger won (he was the defending champion at the Bay Hill Invitational) he told Tiger when he walked off the green that he knew that putt was going to go in. The putt tiger hit last year was an insane putt with multiple breaks an one that you could hit ten times and maybe make once. But today, when Tiger walked off the green Palmer shakes his hand and says, “You remember what I said to you last year? Yeah, well, I knew before you hit that putt it was going in too. Great job Tiger.” Can you imagine that feeling? The guy that has been an icon of golf placing his bets on you to make the final birdie to win it all. Just makes me happy to be a part of this game.)
O’Hair is young. Only being 26, having very little tour experience at all, was up against the number one player in the world today. And asked in an interview this morning, before he teed off with his five shot lead, he was asked how he would handle himself on the course today. Sean said, and not to quote him, that he was going to play his game and nothing else. He was not going to watch Tiger and that if he would hit the ball the same as he did the last three days that he would be holding the trophy at the end of the day. Well, that was not the case, and Tiger walked away with yet another win to add to his mantel.
This is a big win for Tiger for a number of reasons. The first being that he is only two weeks out from the Masters. And come Masters time you can expect to see Tiger in contention all week. He plays that golf course well. It fits his game. He hits the ball higher than anyone on the course. He hits the ball further than most guys out there. He might not always hit it that straight, but he knows how to find the flag stick. And if his putter is even remotely on that week, well, just watch out because he can throw some insane numbers at Augusta.
And outside the fact that this leads Tiger right to the Masters with a win, it gets the “return to action” monkey off his back. When he did not win in his first two events, one of which was a match play event that was not even an official PGA Tour event, the critics started talking about him being in a slump and not any better than he was before he left 8 months ago. What will Tiger have to do to shut up any critic on the planet? What happens when he wins the official Grand Slam (which is all four majors in the same calendar year)? What will the critics say then? (Tiger has actually held all four majors at the same time. It was not in the same calendar year so he was able to call it whatever he wanted since no one else in the history of the game has done that. That is now what is reffed to as the Tiger Slam.
Tiger is back. He is stronger than ever. He is simply ready to do what he knows how to do. He is ready to win. Last week, when he picked up a random event at Doral to just get four more rounds under his belt (and yes I mean four rounds because we all assume he is going to make the cut) he was not necessarily playing that event to win. Of course, that is the overall goal, but he needed time to get used to swinging the club in front of fans and camera. He did that to prepare for this week. And to prepare for the Masters coming the second weekend in April.
I wish him the best of luck. I have begun to follow him on Twitter and I can’t wait to see his Tweets as this year unfolds. Welcome back Tiger. Is is nice to see you where you belong; the top of the leader board.