Tiger Woods has won three times in the past six months but his victory last Sunday afternoon at the Memorial Tournament was, in this writer’s opinion, Woods’ first real victory since 2009.
Sure, he managed to defeat a field of 18 golfers at the Chevron World Challenge last December, but that was a field consisting of players bearing either signs of winter rust or pure exhaustion from the Presidents Cup which had taken place in Australia just two weeks prior.
Woods won again in late March by five strokes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which is the still the largest margin of victory at any PGA Tour event this year. But, there was just something about that win that didn’t quite scream “I’M BACK!”
Woods looked more like a player still terrified of a duck hook or 50-yard slice that week than a player completely comfortable with his game.
Following his win at the API, Woods went on to finish T-40 at the Masters. He then missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship for the second consecutive time and notched another T-40 at the Players Championship the following week.
But Woods somehow managed to revive both his season and possibly even his career last Sunday afternoon in Dublin, Ohio.
Whereas two months ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Woods appeared to be a player walking on egg shells just hoping one of them wouldn’t crack and result in a vicious hook that would take him completely out of the tournament, last Sunday Woods appeared to be a man fully confident in what he was doing on the golf course.
Woods’ win at the Memorial will forever be remembered for his improbable chip-in for birdie on the 16th hole, but that one shot in itself is not the reason why Woods may have finally turned the corner.
Woods’ chip-in on 16 may have been the first time in three years we’ve seen the type of magic that made him a legend in this game, but it was more the way in which Woods handled himself all week and then closed the door on the field on the 72nd hole that said something was different about this win.
For the first time in three years, Woods walked with an arrogance about him that used to intimidate anyone who stood in his way.
Woods’ arrogance has never been a loud in-your-face type of arrogance. It’s more of a swagger, where he possesses a calm, yet incredibly focused look on his face which makes it clear to the rest of the field that, no matter what happens, he is somehow going to be the man holding the trophy on the 72nd hole.
As Woods approaches the age of 37, his days of completely dominating the tour are likely behind him. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t win and it doesn’t mean that he won’t win more majors.
It simply means that his wins will become more sporadic and he is likely to become far less consistent throughout the remainder of his career.
That being said, there was something altogether different about Woods’ win last Sunday afternoon at the Memorial and it had little to do with his game.
It was the walk, the look and the calm manner with which he rolled in his birdie putt on the 72nd hole that suggested this was a Tiger Woods we had not seen the likes of since late 2009.
Woods’ career is likely still on the decline; after all, there’s no escaping the hands of Father Time.
But perhaps Woods’ decline will not be quite as rapid or as steep as many have been predicting.
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