That title is actually relevant for this post, probably the first time in the history of this blog. Tiger Woods returned to form after many dry years fraught with personal drama and chronic injuries that seemed destined to end his career far too early. He found himself part of the final round mix repeatedly from mid summer onwards, and was right there at the British Open and PGA Championship (where he finished second).
He had one week left to break his drought and his redemption culminated in a victory at the final tournament, the Tour Championship. His first victory in five years and a fitting exclamation point for his long climb back to the top. Full disclosure, I’ve been ambivalent about sports for several years. Music has essentially taken over a lot of my free time as well as my hopes and aspirations. Sports are something I tend to casually watch while doing something else, but for several years I couldn’t be bothered. I’d turn on the odd major championship and watch the final holes but never really got that caught up in the competition. I enjoyed watching a shootout, but always felt disconnected.
I started watching Tiger while he was still an amateur and I’ve seen most if not all (there were Army deployments and whatnot sprinkled in) of his victories over the past twenty plus years. Watching Tiger has been observing history, just like if you were able to see Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Ben Hogan, etc. in their primes. It’s been easy to get caught up and root for Tiger, because it’s always felt like you were rooting for history as much for the man. And we were.
Tiger has now closed the gap even further with Sam Snead, he’s only three victories away from taking the all time tournament victory record of 82 away from him. I feel that’s completely within reach, and if Tiger stays healthy we may see that fall as early as next year. The greatest achievement is still a steep mountain to climb, but he’s four victories away from tying Jack Nicklaus’ all time major championship total, five from surpassing it.
It’s always been a tall order and for the past several years most were convinced it was a record that would never fall. Now, it seems like it might just be within reach. Tiger is 42 years old and one should remember that Jack got his final major at the age of 46, and he was arguably never the fitness freak that Tiger has been. Although that’s been a double edged sword considering Tiger’s orthopedic issues with his back and knees.
He’s managed to adapt to his most recent back surgery (out of four?) which included a fusion. Apparently he’s made significant changes to his swing and overall tried to reduce the torque on his body that was the hallmark of his swing for so many years. Watching him these past few months, he may look a bit more controlled but he can still get the ball out there with the young guns and this weekend there were no glaring weaknesses to his game.
He was absolutely on fire for the first seven or so holes on Saturday, and essentially rode the lead all the way to the 72nd hole on Sunday. Not as dramatic or exciting as early Saturday, but an example of his maturation as a player and honestly very similar to how Nicklaus won many of his tournaments, by setting a score and then letting the competition defeat themselves over the remaining holes.
Golf is a sport that I can’t get too excited about on a regular basis, but I’m looking forward to next year for the first time in long, long time. It would be a fitting capstone to his amazing career if he could achieve those two large and long looming goals before he’s done.