Tiger Woods was set to host the Chevron World Challenge (now the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge) and while the tournament didn't mean anything for career numbers or FedEx Cup points, it meant a lot for the confidence of the tournament host.
Woods had lost the year before to Graeme McDowell in a playoff as he entered the final round with a four-shot lead, and his '11 PGA Tour season ended without a single victory.
In '11 at Sherwood Country Club, it was Tiger who was able to make the clutch putts down the stretch that had been missing for more than two years, and his victory over Zach Johnson there not only was his first win since the '09 Australian Masters, but it catapulted him to a 2012 season that saw Woods lift trophies on the PGA Tour three times, and five times a season later.
There is a theory in golf that winning is a skill just like hitting fairways and making five-footers, and Woods had lost that ability after all his personal problems and swing changes. He struggled to make that putt on the 18th green to improve his round by a shot, and he couldn't put together a Sunday round that was worthy of a champion.
His play at that Chevron World Challenge reminded us, and him, that this guy was born to be clutch.
On Sunday at the Australian Open, Rory McIlroy faced a similar situation. Heading into the last 18 holes, it was McIlroy who was chasing a man who had one of the better season of anyone in the world in Adam Scott, but the round was far more important to Rory than it was to Adam.
Sure, Scott was chasing the Australian Grand Slam, but a win here for McIlroy would mean more than just an extra piece of luggage to take back to Northern Ireland, it would remind us, and remind Rory, that his talent level can take down the best in the world on their home soil.
McIlroy won on Sunday thanks to a clutch birdie putt on the 72nd hole, and his reaction was what you might expect from a 24-year-old that went through one of the most difficult years of his life.
Rory is an extreme talent, and while I don't agree with the comparisons to Tiger, we've seen how good he can be when his golf swing is clicking. This win at a tournament on the other side of the globe wasn't just important to McIlroy's 2013, but it could be an enormous help for '14 and beyond.
We've seen it with Tiger, and hopefully we will see it with Rory.
Golf is a better sport when McIlroy is out there pounding drives down the middle of the fairway and burying birdie putts to win golf tournaments.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Tiger Woods
- PGA Tour
- Chevron World Challenge
- Rory McIlroy