Tiger Woods: Closer to Another Major Championship Victory Than You Think
Although he ultimately fell short, Tiger Woods’ wire-to-wire performance this week is a victory for the game of golf.
Woods finished in a tie for second place at the Valspar Championship at the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf Club. Woods shot a final round 70 (-1) and finished the tournament at 9-under overall. After a first-round 70, the 42-year-old stormed onto the leaderboard the next two days, shooting a combined 7-under on Friday and Saturday. In the final round, Woods was two-back of leader Paul Casey (-10) with two holes to play. Needing a birdie, Woods sunk a 44-foot putt on the par-3 17th. He would go on to par the 18th after he left his uphill birdie attempt short.
This is Woods’ first top-five finish in an official PGA Tour Event since the 2013 Barclays (second place). This is also the first time he’s played three-straight events without an injury since 2015.
After Woods’ encouraging performance in the HERO World Challenge this fall, he had a certain swagger — different than his previous returns from injury — that suggested winning another tournament wasn’t out of the question. After four solid rounds this weekend, golf fans can collectively celebrate. What we’ve seen so far is no fluke; Tiger is back to playing golf at a high-level.
What made Woods dominant in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s was more complex than raw talent. He was the ultimate competitor, in a sport that didn’t have its version of Michael Jordan yet. Jack Nicklaus was incredible, but he didn’t eviscerate you on the golf course like Jordan did on the hardwood. Woods — like Jordan — was going to come out on top, and everyone knew it. It was just a matter of how. Woods still has that same fire in him, and he showed flashes of it this week, particularly with his final-round birdie on 17.
His performance wasn’t perfect. Woods missed makeable putts on the back nine, and his three-putt on the par-five 14th was the difference between what was an encouraging week, and PGA Tour Victory number 80. In terms of ball-striking, Woods was fantastic. This week he ranked 3rd in strokes gained tee to green. Although his iron shots were slightly off, he was able to limit the big misses, which led to 12-straight pars on Sunday.
Strokes Gained @TigerWoods
Off tee 1.889 14th
Tee to Green 10.957 3rd
Approach 4.966 8th
Around Green 4.103 5th
Putting 0.895 39th
— Ben Everill (@BEverillPGATOUR) March 11, 2018
If we’re looking at the big picture, Woods couldn’t have asked for a much better week. On Thursday and Friday, he outplayed — both tee-to-green and with his short game — Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson. Yes, Woods has a long way to before he’ll consistently compete with the world’s best, but that shouldn’t be his end goal.
A win this weekend would’ve been the best story golf has seen in years, but we still got to see a glimpse of vintage Tiger. At the end of the day, Woods is looking to win majors. Similar to the way Lebron James is currently chasing Jordan’s six championship rings, Woods is doing the same with Nicklaus’ 18 major championships.
It’ll be a daunting task for Woods to win three more majors, but he has to walk before he can run. This week’s performance showed the world that Woods is closer to the winner’s circle — and a full-fledged comeback — than anyone previously thought.