With his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, Tiger Woods has somehow overcome all of the doubt that was placed on him by the media. Before tapping in for the easy win yesterday, Tiger was never supposed to win another major; he was supposed to fade away in David Duval fashion.
Suddenly, one measly victory at Bay Hill means he's the early favorite to claim the green jacket. My immediate question was, "Why?" Well, now it's become clear that Tiger's first PGA tour win in 30 months has huge significance.
Number one, he has sent a massive message to the rest of his peers. One of the main reasons that Tiger had such a tough time winning was because of his reputation, the legend of Tiger, had, in many ways, been compromised. He became just another golfer in a field of incredibly talented players. His competitors no longer saw him as this overbearing, threatening powerhouse.
Tiger lost his psychological advantage. Winning the biggest pre-Masters test has, at the very least, planted a seed of doubt in his opponents minds. He didn't just win the Arnold Palmer, he effectively dismantled the field, topping World No. 13 Graeme McDowell by five strokes. He has re-gained that psychological advantage.
On top of that, he's playing very well. Tiger's biggest struggles over the early part of this season were on the putting green. He's been striking the ball very effectively and has slowly been climbing up the rankings on Strokes Gained by Putting.
This week at Bay Hill, he had a ridiculous 2.911 SG/P in his second round, moving from 39th to 10th in the course of four rounds. The bottom line: Tiger is finding his putting stroke. And that's basically the only thing that was still missing from his game. People also seem to forget that he's second in scoring average.
It's also important to note that Tiger has had peaks and valleys over the course of his career. Between 2002 and 2005, he failed to win a Major and lost his No. 1 ranking to Vijay Singh. He's encountered adversity and always seems to come back.
It's easy to say that Tiger will never be the player he was before, but you don't just lose the immense athletic talent that he possesses. It's really just a matter of confidence and rediscovering that magic.
And if Tiger has taught us anything, it's that Augusta National can be a very magical spot.
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