Dressed in his signature Sunday best, Tiger Woods made his way to the 18th green flanked by a sea of spectators chanting and cheering his name as his 80th PGA Tournament victory was about to unfold.
The 42-year old fist pumped his way past a field of younger studs to win his first title in 1876 days, compliments of his successful spinal fusion back surgery.
At times during his attempted comebacks, it was painful to watch the greatest phenom falter repeatedly – a mere shell of his former self – like Superman compromised by the effects of kryptonite.
But after a few heartbreaking close calls this season, posting six top 10 finishes coming into the Tour Championship, it wasn’t a matter of if he was going home with hardware but when.
“He’s played such good golf all year that it’s just not surprising,” Phil Mickelson said while Woods was on the back nine. “He’s playing so well on a very difficult golf course. We all have been kind of expecting it. I’ve seen the way he’s been swinging the club and the way he’s been playing. We all knew it was just a matter of time.”
It’s pretty mind boggling to think that Woods was basically out of golf for the past two years and when he returned at the Farmer’s Insurance Open in January, he was ranked 656th in the world.
On a day when the rest of the pack couldn’t find the fairway, approach shots were short of the green and just 13 players broke par, Woods 1-over-par 71 was good enough, coupled with his previous rounds of 65-68-65.
His lead was never less than two, and it got that close only at the 16th hole, where Woods made his second bogey of the final round while Billy Horschel, who slipped past the fading Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, was hopeful in the clubhouse.
“It was a grind out there,” Woods said. “I loved every bit of it. The fight and the grind and the tough conditions and just had to suck it up and hit shots, and I loved every bit of it.” And so did we.
Fresh off of his first win in five years, the new and improved old guy on the block is now the favorite to win next year’s Masters and is favored to beat Mickelson, the lefty pushing 50, in their one-on-one $9 million 18-hole match Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas.