Tiger Woods. Sunday red. A challenger rises, a challenger is vanquished. How many times have we heard this story before? And it never gets old.
On Sunday at the AT&T National at Congressional, Woods eliminated a one-shot deficit almost immediately, and held the lead most of the afternoon as he pulled free of most of the field. Only Bo Van Pelt kept pace with Woods, but you know how these stories always end. Woods shot 2-under on the day to finish at minus-8 on the tournament, two clear of Van Pelt and three clear of Adam Scott.
Woods had moment after moment that brought back memories of days gone by, whether sinking putts practically from the steps of the Capitol, an approach shot where he wrapped his club around a tree and still found the green for par, a generous gift to a fan struck with a tee shot, a chip from eight feet below the green that dinged the flag stick on 16. This round alone had more highlights than Woods has produced in any tournament in many a year.
Say this for Van Pelt, though: He stayed tough while many, many, MANY other men in his position over the years quailed and cracked. It wasn't until the 16th, when he couldn't capitalize on Woods' bogey, that the machine started to leak oil. He carved up the 17th, flying the green on his approach, and falling one shot off the lead.
For his part, Woods played the first 15 holes without a bogey, continuing a 41-hole streak that dated back to Friday. He salvaged a bogey on 16 when his entire round could have fallen apart, and pulled ahead of Van Pelt once and for all on 17 by sinking a knee-knocking eight-foot par putt.
Woods will next tee it up this week in the Greenbrier Classic, tuning up for the British Open in mid-July. If there is such a thing as a "comeback" for Woods, it won't be official until he wins a major. But since the hydrant-and-transgressions scandal, he's never appeared more ready to win another major than he is right now.
To wit: This marks Woods' third win of the season, which leads the PGA Tour. (Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan have two apiece.) Woods also ranks among the leaders in top-3 finishes, money earned, total driving and a host of other statistics. And he's now No. 1 in the FedEx Cup. All of which has to lead even the biggest doubters to an inevitable conclusion:
If Tiger Woods isn't back, he's not far off now.
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