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Tiger Woods Proves He's Regained Elite Form with Win at Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 12:  Tiger Woods of the USA lines up a birdie putt on the 12th hole during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship at THE PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 12, 2013 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2013

Don't call it a comeback (even if that's exactly what it is).

With his win at the Players Championship on Sunday, Tiger Woods won his fourth tournament of the season and ended his struggles at TPC Sawgrass, where he had won just once in his previous 14 tries. Remember, Woods won just four tournaments in the previous three seasons combined.

In other words, the old Woods—the one who once dominated the sport of golf in historic fashion—is back.

All he has left to do now is win his first major since 2008. Based on his strong performance at this year's Masters (fourth), it seems likely he'll end that drought as well.

Woods sits atop a long list of rankings this year, including FedExCup season points, the world rankings, the money list ($5,849,600), scoring average (68.516 in 25 rounds) and strokes gained via putting (with an average of 1.259).

Unlike his competitors, Woods kept his composure on Sunday down the stretch. The same could not be said for Sergio Garcia, who twice put the ball into the water on No. 17 and double-bogeyed 18.

And while players who held the lead at one point on Sunday like Jeff Maggert and David Lingmerth crumbled around him on the final holes, Woods coolly reached par on No. 17 and 18. In fact, take away a bogey on No. 6 and a double-bogey on No. 14, and Woods played the sort of consistent and steady final round that has seemed to elude him at the biggest tournaments in recent years.

That's the Tiger I remember, the player who was so consistently dominant that his presence atop the leaderboard was enough to intimidate opponents and put the pressure on the rest of the field, even when it was Tiger who was defending a lead. 

That player was larger than life. That player didn't need to be at his very best to win, but when he was, there wasn't a chance he was going to lose. 

And now, it appears that player is back.

It may be a surprise to some to see Woods dominating this much in 2013, but as he said after the tournament, he expects to play at this level (via Steve DiMeglio of USA Today):

"Am I surprised? No," Woods said when asked if he's surprised with his latest stretch of outstanding golf. "I know a lot of people in this room thought I was done. But I'm not. … I'm just trying to get better, and I feel like I'm getting better as the year's going on, which is nice."

In other words, don't call it a comeback. 

 

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