18 April 2018
Tiger: Back on the Prowl
On the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, Paul Casey won the PGA Tour title the Valspar Championship. A week later, Rory McIlroy secured his first win since 2016, claiming the Arnold Palmer Invitational title. Two big wins for two big names but all eyes were on another name. An even bigger one.
Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy seemed unperturbed by the presence of Tiger Woods at the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational, each securing themselves another PGA Tour title. Tiger may not have won but he played well and for the first time since 2013 looked to be in with a real chance.
Scoring a 1-under-par 70 in the final round at Innisbrook, Tiger enchanted spectators with a 44-foot birdie putt on the 17th green that pulled him within one stroke of Casey. It was a glimmer of the former great Tiger Woods that golf fans long to see again. After making the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, then missing it at the Genesis Open in mid-February, Tiger has been showing steady improvement, playing steadily to finish 12th at the Honda Classic, reaching T2 at Valspar, and T5 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Tiger’s return to competitive golf has provided a huge boost to spectator numbers on the course and an even bigger increase to TV and online audiences. Even non-golf fans have been tuning in to see how the world’s most famous name in golf will fare back on his old turf. Tiger Woods is like a TV drama that fans can’t stop watching.
When Tiger announced last October that he would play in his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge, in December, the euphoria of Tiger's return echoed through the media and online. Whether it be enduring love and adoration of the once invincible sportsman, or simply a fascination with the world’s most prolific golfer who had arguably the world’s most prolific fall from grace, the fact is, everyone still wants to see Tiger.
Tiger’s performance in the most recent events shines a renewed ray of hope that he’ll return to the competitive ranks he once dominated. The next part of the progression, as Woods stated before the Honda Classic, is ‘winning time.’
“I keep getting a little bit better here and there, making these little subtle tweaks, and I’ve done that from tournament to tournament,” said Woods, as quoted by the New York Post. “I thought I had a shot at Honda with a few holes to go, and instead of making birdies coming in, I didn’t. [I] made some mistakes. But to play myself into contention this early into [Valspar], it was nice, and on top of that to build on what I did a week ago. I feel comfortable out there.”
However, if the years since that fateful night in November 2009 have taught fans anything, it’s that the road is no longer smooth for Tiger, and critics say he will need to improve his game off the tee if he’s in with a chance of mounting a serious challenge at the Majors.
“I am pretty close, I think, to putting it all together. It’s like riding a bike but it’s a new bike,” said Tiger, as quoted by ESPN. “I know what I can do out there but it feels different and that’s one of the things I’m still getting used to. When I fully put it together again, when I know my limits, then I think I’ll start winning golf tournaments again.”
What the last eight years have shown is that it’s impossible to predict how far Tiger will rise and whether he will ever again bask in the glory he was once swathed in. One thing is certain, his dazzling career, that has produced 79 Tour wins including 14 majors, stunned audiences around the world tournament after tournament and his presence is still highly anticipated to this day. His recent performances have raised the hopes of millions who want to see him go head-to-head with today’s best players. We can only wait with bated breath to see when and where they will meet.