The surprising thing about this year’s Masters wasn’t the composed manner of Jordan Spieth’s win. Well, OK, much of this year’s Masters WAS about the emergent talent of the new wonder kid. But we did witness a rebirth of, perhaps not the old Tiger, but something akin to what the old Tiger used to do. A new Tiger Woods.
In his own words, his Saturday front nine was close to being “a special round” and considering the many ‘special’ rounds in Tiger’s career, that statement should please the many Tiger supporters waiting for him to make one final push for top spot again.
In contrast to this week’s performance he had only managed to complete 72 holes on the PGA Tour twice since 2013. So to make the top twenty at Augusta, is big. And it was news that was swallowed by Spieth’s own coming of age.
So how did Tiger’s game hold up in one of the most testing environments in golf?
Let’s face it Tiger has never driven the ball very well, even when winning his fourteen majors it was rare that he ever brushed shoulders with any notion of accuracy and a high percentage of hit fairways. Two memorable drives this week were his final round drive down the 10th that bounded 330 yards through pine straw before resting behind a large shrub and his duck hook during the third round at the 13th. But even there we were reminded of what Tiger once did when he produced an unlikely birdie.
We have all been used to iron after iron piercing the green and setting up birdie, and on the front nine in round three he hit a succession of irons to small targets. He went out in 32, it could easily have been 30.
Short Game 8/10
So much had been said about his woeful short game in his limited starts this year that many might wonder if he would even break 80 round Augusta. Apart from a duffed chip shot on the 8th on Friday, Woods was surprisingly adroit playing from around the greens, saving himself time and time again late on in rounds one and three.
Holed a good share of putts, even managing to throw in a couple of eagles too. We didn’t see too many short putts nudging the hole this week; the greens were kind to Tiger and his confidence mirrored it.
He looked every bit the healthy Tiger. There were no winces from back spasms or evidence of an inadequate warm up routine, even when he went 100% he didn’t dislocate something which will encourage his physio. He did, apparently, dislodge a bone in his hand during the final round, but managed to ‘pop it back it’ again and carry on. Bravo Tiger!
There were a few errant shots, which might be expected from such a prolonged lay off. In the last eighteen months he has been as mentally fragile as a rabbit caught in headlights. For someone who has walked on eggshells for as long as he has, his resilience was impressive. In perspective, he came back from an opening 73 to play in the third last pairing on Sunday, alongside the current world number one, Rory McIlroy.
In short Tiger should be looking forward to competing on the PGA Tour for the remaining season. It might not be every week, but if this particular week is to be judged, then he is most certainly back. If it isn’t the old Tiger, it most certainly is a an older, wiser, more realistic Tiger, and that can only be as good for the game as Spieth’s own accession.