Monday, March 11, 2013

Is Tiger Lurking to Take Over World Number 1?

He prowled onto the national scene in 1996 and by April of 1997 Tiger Woods became a household name after his performance at the Masters. He has been the face of golf ever since, for both good and bad reasons but now it appears Woods will once again be the talk of the sport for just winning. Tiger’s Thursday to Sunday performance at Doral, culminating in a two shot, no sweat victory, gave him his second championship of the season and fifth win in a year’s time. With another trophy celebration at Bay Hill in two weeks, Woods would become the world’s number one ranked player again. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen but what is clear to most golf experts, enthusiast and commentators is that the old Tiger Woods is back, or is he? With the help of friend and fellow pro Steve Stricker, Woods posted his lowest putting total of his PGA Tour career finishing with just 100 over the 72 hole event. His 27 birdies were just one short of the most he has ever made in an event. He finished seventh in the field in greens in regulation and although just 30th in the 65 player field in driving, it hardly hurt him. However, we have seen this from the man still chasing Jack before. Last year he won at Bay Hill before the Masters and finished tied for 40th at Augusta. He won Nicklaus’ tourney last year as well and couldn’t get it done at the U.S. Open the next week, tying for 21st. Despite Tiger’s impressive work in South Florida last weekend, this summer will be five years since he’s won a major, the 2008 Open at Torrey Pines. So why would this recent success at the age of 37, be different from the other flashes of the old Tiger we’ve seen in the last couple of years? One reason would be Woods health appears to be at a grade of A plus for the moment. Last year at Doral, Tiger was forced to withdraw from the final round on the 12th hole due to a recurring Achilles tendon injury. After Sunday’s victory he stated, “It’s nice to be healthy”. “I was struggling there for a while”. His most serious injury of course being a torn ligament in his left knee which required surgery, a long layoff and caused him pain over the last couple of years appears to also be a thing of the past. The public scandal of Woods infidelity which led to the brake-up of his marriage to wife Elin seems to be another part of Tigers’ past now, as his game continues to steal the headlines instead of his private life leading the tabloids. You don’t have to play golf to know how much of the game is mental and there is no doubt the hit Woods’ image took bothered him immensely during his play since that 2009 Thanksgiving evening when the ex-wife allegedly put a golf club upside his head after finding out about his creeping. Time does appear to be healing all of the wounds that brought down the game’s greatest present day golfer. Mentally, physically and emotionally Tiger seems to have it all together at once for the first time since before his historic 2008 Open win on basically one leg. Arnold Palmer’s event in two weeks will probably tell the story if Tiger will be considered the front-running favorite for the Masters in April. Nicklaus was able to scratch out his 18th and final major win at the age of 46, which is still a long ways away for Tiger. But if Woods is going to resume serious pursuit of Jack’s record by winning his 15th major, the time is now. For the first time in a long time, the golfer not the person who made the sport cool, popular and even wealthier is on the prowl again and headed back to the place where it all started with his sights set on a fifth green jacket.

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