COMMENTARY | Where oh where to begin with Tiger Woods and his win at the Players Championship this past weekend.
Do we start with his spat with Sergio Garcia, the Spaniard with whom Woods makes no bones about his disdain for? Or maybe the step that Woods took in closing in on Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour victories mark (Snead finished with 82, Woods now has 78)? Perhaps some speculation over whether this portends a summer sweep of the majors for the world's No. 1 golfer and quite possibly its most polarizing athlete?
Well, first, let's just being with Tiger, and what Tiger has to say about Tiger. He's never lacked hubris, carrying himself with more panache than any athlete in any sport, so his hauteur in the post-win press conference wasn't exactly surprising, but it was enlightening to see just how Woods was feeling about his game.
"Am I surprised?" Woods said after sealing up his 13-under-par victory at TPC Sawgrass. "No. I know a lot of people in this room thought I was done. But I'm not."
As for surprised, there really is no reason he should have been. Prior to this weekend's jaunt in Florida, Woods had won in three of his six starts in 2013 and posted a strong showing at the Masters, though anything other than winning these days unleashes a torrent of questions whether he will ever truly beat Jack's record. Woods is now four for seven, leading the FedEx Cup by a landslide and has reached four victories in a season quicker than ever before (this marks his 12th year reaching that mark).
But, as for people in the media room counting him out, there were still more than likely very few. Even when Woods was languishing through swing changes, divorces, yips and meltdowns, he was still the most feared name on the leaderboard. I don't think you will find many that would have stood firmly by the notion that Tiger Woods, one of the most dominant athletes of this generation, was finished, caput before his 40th birthday.
However, say there may have been a few out there whose loathing of Woods -- not contesting your reasons for that -- was so great that they really did convince themselves his career was in an irreversible downwards spiral. Even they have to admit that Woods is not over yet. In fact, we may be getting a glimpse of the best of him to come.
"The golf course played tricky today," Woods said. "It was fast and difficult and I hit it so good, it was fun. I hit it high, low, left to right, right to left, whatever I wanted, except for that tee shot at 14."
To hear Woods, who has an uncanny knack for finding some reason, any reason, to nitpick at his game, say that he could hit whatever shot he wanted, save one costly exception, a flukish hook, is downright scary. Even in his three previous wins this season -- at the Farmer's Insurance Open, Cadillac Championship, and Arnold Palmer Invitational -- Woods was still missing a few shots from his arsenal. He wasn't in full command of his draw off the tee, his cuts weren't always cutting quite right, and his iron play was spotty at points, which kept him from getting consistently clean looks at birdie.
And then Sawgrass rolled around, and Woods hit 55 out of 72 greens -- third in the tournament -- got up and down on more than 70 percent of his misses, went 4-for-4 from greenside bunkers and finally overcame 12 years of struggles at the Stadium Course.
"I feel like I'm getting better as the year's going on," Woods said, "which is nice."
The key phrase in that, obviously, is "as the year's going on." We all know what's coming in the weeks ahead: the U.S. Open at Merion, the British Open at Muirfield, and the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
It would be difficult to find somebody who expects Woods to lay an egg at all three. With the way he's playing now, coupled with the way says he's feeling about his game, it might just be easier to find someone who fully expects him to take all three.
Travis Mewhirter has been working in the golf industry since 2007, when he was a bag room manager at Piney Branch Golf Club in Carroll County, Maryland, and has been involved, as a player, since 2004. Since then, he has worked at Hayfields Country Club, where the Constellation Energy Classic was formerly held, and has covered golf at the high school, college, and professional levels.
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