Tiger Woods may have finally found his golf game, and that is very big news for the entire golfing community. With Woods in contention, last week’s Valspar Championship had the most viewers of any golf broadcast, outside of the majors, in the past five years. Sunday’s round at the Valspar drew higher ratings than the final rounds of last years British Open and PGA Championship. NBC and their advertisers both must have been doing back flips as he made his charge late on Sunday afternoon. People across the country were turning the channel away from NCAA basketball conference championships to see if Tiger could pull off what so many of his fans have waited so long to see.
Unfortunately for Tiger, the charge came up just short as he missed a long, breaking putt on the 18th hole that would have sent him into a playoff with Paul Casey. Woods finished tied for second with Patrick Reed at nine under par. This was the first time in quite some while that Woods has been in the mix this late into a tournament. He has not won a tournament since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. After spending the first ten of his years on tour basically injury-free, Woods has been through a seemingly never-ending series of surgeries and procedures on his knees and back. The Valspar tournament has golf fans everywhere believing, more than wondering, that perhaps this is the start of the long-awaited comeback.
Golf needs Tiger to be back, and the world of sports needs Tiger to be back. And after sinking a 44-foot putt on number 17, it looked like we had just that. But this felt like a different Tiger. Instead of his signature fist pump after that long putt, he cracked a smile. It was a much more relaxed reaction compared to the Tiger we are used to seeing. It makes one wonder if he actually believes himself that he is truly back and if his game is back. It seems the old level of competitiveness is not quite there yet. Who can say that it ever will? Tiger Woods, in his prime, may have been the most competitive athlete the world had seen. Maybe that will be the last thing he finds before entering back into the winners circle.
It is not just Tiger fans who believe this is the beginning of something special. When you find yourself wondering if a certain player or team is legit or not, a good measuring stick is looking at the betting odds of the Las Vegas sportsbooks. Vegas is good, really good. They always have a beat on not the perception of what a team is, but rather what the team is in reality. As of this Thursday morning, Woods was listed as the favorite to win the upcoming first major of the year, The Masters. Keep in mind this could change over the next two weeks if Woods performance drops off, but as of now, this is more than just hype. Tiger does not have to be the old Tiger to be on top of golf again. Eighty percent of the old Tiger would probably be good enough to start racking up top ten finishes again. Especially at a place like Augusta, where no other player is better suited for the course, and atmosphere as Woods will be.
For those out there who may not be golf fanatics, you need to know, there is nothing quite like a Sunday afternoon at Augusta with Tiger in contention. There are people who will tell you that there is a different electricity that defines New York City from all the other places in the world. The same could be said about the crowd at Augusta when the most dominant player of a generation is lurking on the leaderboard.
This past weekend, Woods continued his impressive play with a 10 under finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. At one point on Sunday, as he donned his traditional red shirt, Woods was only a shot back from the leader and eventual winner, Rory McIlroy. However, McIlroy shot 5 under on the back nine as Woods shot only 1 under, bogeying two of his last three holes. Much of the sports world will be tuned into Augusta when the Masters begin on April 5, just to see if the 14-time Majors winner Eldrick Tont Woods will return as the top golfer in the world.