“Is Tiger back?”
It’s the question that is asked over and over in the last year as the golf world obsessively checked the temperature of its meal ticket. At one point even a straight drive or a confident 6-foot putt would ring a chorus of yays or nays with regards to the state of Woods’ game. But with Sunday’s victory at the ATT National in Washington, D.C., Woods made a strong case for the affirmative.
Woods fired a 2-under par 69 to finish at 8-under 268, securing a 2-shot victory over Bo Van Pelt. It was the 74th win of his illustrious career, putting him one ahead of Jack Nicklaus on the all-time PGA Tour victories list and leaving him just eight behind Sam Snead.
The win was Woods’ third of the year, and the 22nd come from behind victory of his career. Woods also won this event in 2009, meaning that all of his 2012 wins have come at courses where he has previously tasted success.
Woods took command at the ninth hole on Sunday with a 12-foot birdie putt that gave him the solo lead that he never relinquished. He stubbed a bit with a bogey on the par 5 16th that left an opening for Van Pelt. But Woods finished with two solid pars on the demanding Congressional Blue Course, while Van Pelt finally withered in the blistering heat, carding bogeys on the final three holes to eliminate any chances he had of catching Woods.
In addition to the course setup that was acknowledged as tougher than the one at the U.S. Open on the same course in 2011, the golfers had to contend with temperatures in excess onf100 degrees, stifling humidity and a destructive storm that hit the nation’s Capital on Friday night and left tournament organizers scrambling to get the course fit for golfers and spectators. While fans were not allowed on the course for Saturday’s round, they were back in droves on Sunday to see Woods patiently dissect the course and the field. When asked what in his game was working this week, Woods quickly responded, “Everything.”
“ My ball striking was good out there, and it is continuing o improve,” he said. “I’m happy with this win, but I still have a lot work to do and a lot of things left to accomplish.”
One of the things that Woods accomplished this week was to move to the top of the FedEx Cup point standings, a position he has not seen for 100 weeks. He can add to his lead at this week’s Greenbrier Classic, an event that will see Woods for the first time.
But like the players, the fans the media and even the course itself, Woods was happy to survive the week’s severe weather.
“It always feels good to win,” Woods said after the round, “But it was damn hot out there.”
It’s still not clear whether Tiger is “back”, but virtually every golfer in the world would like to be where he is now.