So the WGC Bridgestone was this weekend in Akron, Ohio, at Firestone Country Club. In the field this week were 49 of the top 50 players in the world competing for yet another WGC trophy. (Can anyone tell me when the WGC was founded?) Tiger, who has more titles in the WGC than I can count, was in the field this week vying for his seventh title at Firestone Country Club. Tiger, coming off a win last week and a missed British Open cut the week before will be playing four weeks in row with the PGA Championship coming up next week. This is the first time that I can remember since I have been watching Tiger, and I have been watching him since 1997, that he has played four tournaments in a row.
Tiger, having missed the cut in the British a couple of weeks ago, had something to prove last week when he went out and shot 20 under par to win his 69th title. This week, having won over 51% of the WGC events that he had entered to date, just wanted another win at Firestone, not to mention the addition to his WGC catalog of trophies. Tiger, as usual, had a pretty rough start and managed to keep himself in the top half of the field on Thursday and Friday. He played a little better on Saturday, making birdies on four of the last five holes, and squeezed himself into the final pairing on Sunday with the Irish born Padraig Harrington.
Tiger came into Sunday eyeing Paddy, 3 shots off the lead. He had some major ground to make up and that is something that Tiger is not used to and quite frankly not something he is necessarily good at. He rarely comes from behind to win on Sunday. Having done so only a handful of times in regular season PGA events, he has never done it in a major. And he has never lost while holding the lead or a share of the lead on Sunday. How are those for some odds?
But Tiger came out of the gate swinging and managed to go four under in the first five holes with an eagle and some birdies while Paddy stayed at even par. He was doing nothing wrong but Tiger was just doing everything right. They would bounce back and forth and Tiger eventually found himself a shot back going into hole sixteen. Tiger hit his drive into the deep rough and Paddy follows by going to the opposite side of the fairway in similar rough. Tiger punches out and managed to throw his ball within a few inches giving him what some are already calling the best shot of his career. (I beg to differ. Tiger has hit some amazing shots in his time and will hit many more before his career is over. This was a great shot, sure, but not the best of his career by any means.)
So Padraig had a chance to match him by hitting it close but sent the ball over the green and damn near into the grand stands. He then proceeds to hit out of there, after a free drop away from the bleachers, and sends it right into the drink. By the time the hole was over Tiger now had a three shot lead over Paddy and only had two holes left to play.
By the end of the day Tiger was holding his seventh victory at Firestone and his 70th victory on the PGA Tour. Tiger is only thirty-three years old (yes, I know that I mention that every time I talk about Tiger) and has seventy wins. Jack did not hit seventy wins until he was in his forties. Tiger has the chance to actually pass Jack’s win total this year as he has a handful of events left. Remember Tiger has the FedEx Cup to worry about. (He did not win the FedEx Cup last year, in it’s second year, but that was due to his knee injury.) There is no doubt in my mind that he will surpass Jack next year if not this year.
So this is just yet another victory and another reason as to why Tiger Woods is the greatest player on the planet. But the thing today that really got to me, besides the fact that he said a few too many cuss words, was how he acted when he left the 18th green.
Tiger finished the day with a birdie and showed zero sign of emotion. He was not happy, sad, or indifferent. He actually looked more pissed off than anything. He shook Paddy’s hand and the caddies, did a short interview on the green, and went to the scorer’s tent. He walked off looking like he had lost, not just “won” his 70th event. (I say, “won”, as he in reality did not win that, Harrington lost it. Had he have not hit the ball in the water we would have had a different man holding the trophy.) But why was Tiger so upset?
Tiger and Padraig were rushed. They were forced by unapologetic rules officials to increased their speed of play or suffer a two shot penalty for slow play. They were told on hole fifteen that they were falling too far behind the group in front of them and needed to step up the pace. Tiger even walked down the sixteenth fairway arguing with the rules official saying that they were not taking any more time than usual. (Hey Rick Reiley, are you going to have a fit about that too?)
Harrington is not blaming the rules officials, after all rules are rules, but he said that the fact they were being forced to rush around the last few holes is a major contributing factor to him hitting such errant shots. Even on the seventeenth and eighteenth holes they both were hitting it all over the place. Of course, until Tiger stuck his second shot on eighteen to a matter of feet.
So regardless of how the event turned out, it is Tiger’s pure nobility that I applaud. Sure, he has a temper. Sure, he gets mad, slams a club (or microphone) here and there. He even orders his caddy to use force if need be to shut up the bystanders. But at the end of the golf tournament this past Sunday he walked up to Paddy and basically said Padraig deserved that trophy, not him, and that he was sorry that they were put on the clock in such a heated battle of golf shots.
Tiger knows he did not deserve that golf tournament. But I guess that is how the cookie crumbles or how the ball rolls, huh? So as Tiger enters the last stretch of the season he is at seventy and only three back of Jack. (Do I sense some sort of marketing campaign in that?)