I don’t know Tiger Woods personally. Like millions I’ve instead for a generation enjoyed his mastery on golf courses and felt emotionally connected to his seventy-nine career victories, many dominant and all exciting. I’ve also winced as he struggled with personal problems and a series of injuries and surgeries and wondered if he’d ever walk normally and without pain. Would he someday return to the professional tour? Would he be competitive? And, ultimately, would he win just one more professional tournament after not doing so for five years?
Even Tiger Woods, battered and aging at forty-two, long doubted he’d again raise both red-shirted arms on the last hole Sunday. Then this summer he began coming fairly close in a few tournaments and shot sixty-four in the final round to finish in second place two strokes back at the PGA. He sensed then, I’m sure, that it could happen soon. He almost knew it would. It had to. When healthy the man was a genius on the links. He hit drives long and straight. He launched approach shots at pins. He made putts as if guided by radar. In occasional trouble he created escapes where none appeared to exist. In so doing he crushed competitors physically and emotionally.
His professional comrades no doubt tired of being manhandled but as Tiger withered they improved and some eventually yearned to have the maestro return to health so they could beat him in meaningful battle. The top players got that chance this weekend at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Woods responded with two stellar sixty-fives in the first three rounds, led by three entering the final day during which he’d won twenty-three straight tournaments when ahead by that many or more. With a few holes to play he deserted nearest challengers Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose to lead by five, effectively ending the tournament. Even two bogeys down the stretch didn’t derail him and he won by two, showing an elite field he’s back. He’s Tiger Woods again. I didn’t watch much football today. I’d have forgotten what happened on the gridiron this Sunday. I’ll forever remember that a balding, middle-aged man overcame so much and bushwhacked the best in the world. Actually, at the moment, Tiger Woods is again the best player. Can he keep winning? He thinks so.