Monday, March 30, 2009


SORRY, Phil, Geoff, Padraig and all you other professional golfers who’ve been having a ball for the past nine months; the party’s over. THE man is back.

If anyone thought it would take Tiger Woods time to get back in the swing following reconstructive surgery on his left knee then they were right: 35 days, to be precise.

That’s the number of days between Tiger making his comeback in the Accenture Match Play Championship and winning the 66th PGA Tour title of his illustrious career.

On Sunday, he recorded his sixth victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in typical Woods fashion with a birdie on the 72nd hole.

Even those of us who never doubted that the world number one would return as good as new surely didn’t expect him to win on just his third tournament back.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised because if Tiger didn’t think he had a chance of winning, then he wouldn’t bother to turn up.

Such is his strength – both physical and mental – that he has been able to overcome an injury that might have destroyed a lesser player’s career.

And while that’s not such good news for his “rivals” like Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy and Padraig Harrington, it’s great news for golf fans and the PGA TOUR.

Tiger has been sorely missed…not just by us but also by the broadcasters, who have seen viewing figures plummet, and by the sponsors, whose numbers have been dwindling due to the recession.

Everyone’s happy…except Woods’ fellow pros

There’s an advert doing the rounds on the worldwide web at the moment showing a clubhouse full of jokes and jollity being reduced to reverend silence when Woods walks in. “Good to see you back, Tiger,” says one golfer, grudgingly. 

Okay, so it’s going to be harder to win tournaments – especially the Majors – from now on but look at it this way: any event you win without Tiger in the field is hugely devalued.

The frightening thought for his fellow pros is that there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Woods had to sink a long putt just to make bogey on the final hole of his third round and force his way into the final group with Zach Johnson and five-shot leader Sean O’Hair.

That proved to be of great significance, for as one commentator succinctly put it, O’Hair might have won comfortably had he been in the group ahead.

Instead, he spent Sunday afternoon being stalked by a Tiger. The anxiety clearly got to him as he shot a three-over-par 73 compared to Woods’ three-under 67.

With dusk about to give way to darkness and a playoff looming, Woods – as he did last year and in 2001 – made his last shot a winning one, draining a 16-foot putt before celebrating with the now customary fist-pump, and embrace with caddie Steve Williams.

“It feels good, it feels really good,” said Woods after matching his biggest comeback in a PGA TOUR event. “It’s great to be back in contention again, to feel the rush and have to deal with everything coming down the stretch.”

What price now against Woods winning his fifth Masters Green Jacket at Augusta National in two weeks’ time?

Odds of 2-1 look pretty skinny but if you like backing favorites with guts, heart and class, then Tiger’s your man.

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