Guess Who's Back?

And he has done it again. Mr. Woods has stormed to the front of the pack to win the 2009 Memorial by one shot over Jim Fuyrk. And he did it in fine style sporting his Sunday red (Tiger has never played in an event on Sunday that he has not worn red thanks to his mother) and making a birdie birdie finish to seal the deal after an unsightly bogey on a relatively easy par 3.

Tiger has been yelling at his doubters and the media (who some of these are doubters as well) about how he is almost there. After taking several months off, missing a couple of majors, and coming back with what seemed like a rushed rehabilitation, he was ready to play. But was he ready to win? Was he the same Tiger that knocked out Rocco with a broken leg last year? From the start of his season some didn’t think so. But I guess having six straight top ten finishes, two of which are now in the winners column, he wasn’t ready. Maybe he wasn’t ready for another run like he had in the early turn of the century, but he sure as heck was ready to compete. Tiger would never have come back on to the golf course unless he felt he was ready to win.

But some said he came back too early. Some said that he was not ready to hit the links quite yet. That he was putting himself in the same situation that many athletes have done before; by coming back too soon and tearing his knee even more. But Tiger spent quite a bit of time with some mental rehab as well. He spent some much needed time with his family. (And that was the best thing that man has ever done in his career. Having a wife and children was the best thing he could do for his own sanity and his career. And I think that he did it at the right age as well.)

So Tiger starts hitting some balls and begins his trek to the tour once more. And mind you, the entire time that he was gone, he was still the number one player in the world. Several months went by with him not playing one tournament and he held on to that top spot. That says a lot about his career right there. So when Tiger finally comes back folks expect him to either dominate or simply fall by the way side, hurt his knee, or whatever the case may be, not be the Tiger we all remember. And when he comes back he does not impress very many people. He came back to an event that was not based on stroke play and was on a golf course that would test his knee. It was five rounds, not your average four, and there was no cut. So Tiger was going to get five rounds of continuous play out of that knee before he ever stepped to an event he cared about winning. (Do not get me wrong, Tiger wants to win every event he enters. But this was not an event he cared about winning more than he cared about testing his knee. His health means more to him than anything on that trophy case.)

But then he comes back a couple weeks later, throws some shots out there, and bouncing back and forth every week from hitting fairways and missing putts to the opposite the next week. But finally Tiger begins to put some stuff together and manages to grab his welcome back win. But then the driver falls apart again. That was until this week at Jack’s place for the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio. (I have had my fair share of Ohio the last few months.) He comes in, hits the ball onto nearly every fairway, missing only a handful the entire week (and set a record on Sunday by hitting 14/14 fairways) on a golf course that has fairways much tighter than any course on the tour. Even Augusta has wider fairways than this. He misses some putts early on and missed some greens with just a misguided set of adrenaline trying to break another record of four wins at the Memorial. (Jim Furyk was playing in his fourteenth Memorial. He had made every single cut and has a win and a fourth place finish to show for it.)

Tiger, not one to come from behind all that often (although has never lost while having the share of the lead or the out right lead while going into Sunday) was four shots back going into the final round. (Let me touch on that point one last time. Tiger has never once, in his entire career, been in the lead or had a share of the lead and not won on Sunday. Can you believe that? What kind of odds are those? Imagine being another player, let alone the player in his group, on Sunday knowing that not once, in his entire life, has he lost while being where you see him right now. That just makes the entire field playing for second place.)

But that did not stop Tiger. With guys like Furyk on bouncing back and forth all afternoon Tiger just made birdies. He actually fired quite an impressive round on Sunday. He had a couple of bogeys, and even an eagle in there (that set another record as well, with 12 eagles on that golf course in regulation play which was two better than lefty Phil Mickelson who returns to play next week) he managed to fire a nice little 65, some three groups ahead of the players trying to catch him. These were the same players that were three putting and missing gimmies while Tiger was knocking it within inches. And I thought on 18 when Tiger hit a seven iron (from almost 200 yards mind you) that it was going to go in. It was tracking but just let up some five inches from the cup. Yeah, nice way to finish your day, huh?

Tiger taps in and goes to the club house. He had forced those remaining on the course to come in birdie birdie to be able to tie him and neither one did. Tiger was the winner with two more groups to putt out. Must be a nice feeling, huh? But Tiger had the pleasure of shaking the Jack’s hand before he headed to the club house and then again at the presentation of the 4th trophy has earned at the Memorial. And this trophy added to his collection is the 67th of his career. Jack has won that many. Jack did it, in a major none the less, when he was 38 years old. Tiger is 33 years old.

If there is a single critic out there that doubts that Tiger is back please find me. If there is anyone that thinks that Tiger is not ready to begin his trek to the Grand Slam, please contact me immediately. If there is anyone in his or her right mind that thinks that Tiger is anything be the best player ever to swing a club please let me know. Because you are all wrong. I thought 2010 was the year he had a chance to set the Slam. He is playing a set of four courses he knows how to win on, one of which he has won on seven times. But I am not sure he is ready for four majors mentally. But he is ready to add to that collection as he steps one more trophy closer to breaking Jack’s record. I just want to be able to be at that tournament when he does. To see history shatter at the helm of the greatest player in the history of the game. We are living in an absolute magical time. We are living in the era of the Tiger.