The scene was one that is quite familiar with golf fans.
Tiger Woods came into a Sunday with a lead, and like he has so many times before, he finished to job to get the W. Tiger did it yet again at Bay Hill, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational for an unbelievable 7th time.
Only this time, it was different.
Tiger Finally Wins Again
Until Sunday, Tiger Woods had gone 132 weeks without winning a PGA Tour event, by far the longest drought of his career.
Everyone knows the story of how Tiger took a huge fall from grace, how he hasn’t been able to win since that fateful November 2009 night. Sure, he had won the 2011 Chevron World Challenge, but only 18 players compete in the tournament, and he should be winning way more than one tournament in over two years.
He’s Tiger Woods; he’s not supposed to be going that long without winning a major, let alone a regular tournament.
This kind of thing at one time seemed unfathomable to golf fans, and rightfully so. Tiger Woods at his peak was the greatest golfer to have ever played the game, and he was supposed to pass Jack Nicklaus’ record for majors with ease. But in the past few years, some have questioned whether he’ll ever pass Nicklaus at all.
But now, the monkey’s off his back. Tiger finally has that elusive PGA Tour win, and it comes just a couple weeks before the Masters.
But what does this win actually mean for Tiger? Is it a sign of things to come? Is it just a fluke? Nobody knows for sure, but this win will certainly spark a lot of speculation.
The Tiger Woods of old used to pump out wins like it was a natural bodily function, but it’s been a huge struggle for him as of late. While he used to never post a bad Sunday round and was the definition of clutch, this has been one of his greatest weaknesses in these last couple years. He’s been at or near the top of the leaderboard several times during the great drought, but he just couldn’t finish the job. (Side note: I wish Arnold Palmer a very, very speedy recovery and I hope to see him among the excitement of Augusta)
So as Tiger took a 1-shot lead into Sunday at Bay Hill, nobody was quite sure what to expect. Tiger played alongside Graeme McDowell, a major champion and a guy who knows how to get it done. McDowell even beat Woods in a playoff at the 2010 Chevron World Challenge. However, Sunday would be a different story. Graeme faltered right out of the gate by double-bogeying the 1st hole, and Tiger never was pressured too much on his way to the win.
So, what should we take from Tiger’s win at Bay Hill? Here are a few things:
While Tiger used to be automatic with the putter, that has arguably his Achilles heel during the drought. But during the weekend, the putts were finally falling for him again. He didn’t have to make any extremely clutch putts, so that’s something that we’ll have to wait and see on, but the putter looks to be starting to work again, which could be huge.
Off The Tee
Another big part of Tiger’s game is his driving. He’s always been one of the best in the game at driving in terms of distance, but he always has been a little prone to missing the fairways. During his struggles, his driver became much more sporadic, and missing the fairway became a common occurrence.
He finally looks like he’s getting that back under control, which is also a big deal. If he starts out the hole in the middle of the fairway, his job gets a hell of a lot easier.
Most importantly, however, is that this win gives Tiger a plethora of confidence; and for Tiger Woods, it has always been about confidence.
He has a skill set that is unlike any other, and he always would get the most out of it. During his immense drought, however, that confidence wasn’t there. He wouldn’t hit the shots or make the putts that at one time he made with ease. But at long last, he looks like he has the confidence back.
While the other golfers around him were shooting above par, Tiger shot 2-under on Sunday. You could see the relief on his face on the 18th green, and there’s no question that it was like an enormous weight being lifted off his shoulders.
So Is Tiger Woods…Back?
Now I’m not saying Tiger Woods is back all the way, because not only was it just one win, but also because I don’t know exactly what “back” is.
If it’s supposed to be the level at which he used to play, he isn’t (and never will be) at that. Tiger is 36 years old and his best days are behind him; thinking that he’ll ever get back to that level is a pipedream.
But the thing is, Tiger Woods doesn’t have to get back to that kind of play. The old Tiger was far and away the most dominant golfer in the game’s history, and he only has to be a fraction as good as his old self in order to be the best in the world.
Will he pass Jack Nicklaus’s record? Assuming that injuries to his knee don’t force him to retire very young, I’m incredibly confident that he will. Tiger Woods has always played his best golf in majors, and I don’t see that changing.
Even during his struggle, Tiger finished tied for 4th at the Masters twice and once at the U.S. Open. This win gives him the confidence he so desperately needed, and he’ll certainly be among the favorites at August, and rightfully so.
So, is Tiger Woods finally back? We all can make educated guesses, but only time will truly tell.