While a very strong contingent of the world’s best players participated in the recently completed USPGA Tour Honda Classic, they must have thought they were all but a side show to the main attraction. Tiger Woods was back! As Tiger rallied in the early part of his final round, the already burgeoning fairways that had followed his every move all week swelled to unprecedented levels. There was only one show in town – the Tiger Show.
The PGA National Resort & Spa Championship Course at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida is widely acknowledged as the toughest course the pros play all year, with the possible exception the US Open venues and their penal setup. But it’s where Tiger was playing in just his third tournament since recovering from another round of back surgery. A good showing here and maybe he could prove his powers were returning.
Experts watched the first two events he participated in and the jury was undecided. Some said the game had now passed the 42 year old and his glory days were over; others said they saw enough and thought he could add to his 79 PGA Tour wins (the second most in history).
During the final round of the Honda Classic, Tiger crept to three under par after eight holes and he was right in the mix. “Could it be?” the crowds whispered. But a Bear Trap was to be Tiger’s nemesis. The Bear Trap is a run of three holes from the 15th to the 17th and acknowledged as the Bermuda triangle for golfers searching for victory on this already tough layout. Tiger didn’t play well at the Bear Trap, in fact he scored eight over for the three holes over the four days. Take par and he was a chance for victory number eighty.
At the end of the tournament Tiger had to be content with an even par final round and an even par result for the tournament. This was enough for a finish in 12th position – eight shots adrift of the winner Justin Thomas (who beat journeyman Luke List on the first playoff hole).
But the galleries didn’t care who had won, who was beaten in a playoff or who finished where. They only wanted to follow the man who nestled into twelfth position. That man was Tiger Woods and Tiger mania was bigger than a Richmond drought breaking victory at the MCG on that last Saturday in September.
In post round interviews Tiger said he was pleased with his progress, another piece in the puzzle as he eyed a bigger prize after his return to tournament golf. The Masters at Augusta in April was his main target.
Jack Nicklaus, the man with the most majors (18) and the record Tiger is chasing, praised Woods during the fourth round. “I’m amazed at how well Tiger is playing. He’s swung very well. He’s playing well. If he is heathy, I think he can play as well as he ever did”.
Let’s hope Jack is as good a judge as he was champion.