Wearing shades, his black Nike hat on backwards and a black tank top that revealed massive arms, Tiger Woods, carrying his Sunday red in one hand, strolled to the clubhouse at East Lake Golf Club for the final round of The Tour Championship.
Tiger Woods finishes the greatest comeback season in the history of golf with his first win in more than five years.
“I never thought my kids have understood what I’ve been able to do in the game because they always think I’m the ‘YouTube’ golfer,” Woods said. “They’ve never seen me in action. Most of the stuff they’ve seen has been on highlight packages. I want them to see what I’ve been able to do my entire career. I don’t know how long I’m going to be playing, but I want them to come to a few events. I want them to feel it. I want them to understand it a little bit more.”
Tiger’s kids got that show all year, from early-season events on the Florida swing to major championships and throughout these FedExCup Playoffs. Tiger hit the shots that you never thought you would see again. He ignited crowds from sleepy regular season events to major championships on both sides of the Atlantic. There was power and shotmaking and a strut that a generation of kids had previously only seen on YouTube.
McIlroy, playing in the final pairing with Woods, threw away his chance on the front nine. Coming off a birdie at the par-5 sixth, which left him 8-under for the tournament and one-over on the day, McIlroy hit a wild tee shot into the trees to the right of the seventh fairway and made double bogey after a penalty drop. He then hit another drive into the crowd on the right and went on to make bogey at No. 8.
Meanwhile, Woods kept chugging along. He bogeyed the 10th hole to break a run of eight straight pars after his opening birdie, but gained that shot back by rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 13.
Woods made things more interesting with back-to-back bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes, but he had built enough of a cushion for them to be footnotes to his ultimate triumph.
As Woods finished off the win with a par at the 18th hole, he raised his arms in triumph as the crowds surrounding the green chanted “Ti-ger! Ti-ger! Ti-ger!”
“It was a hard time not crying coming up the last hole,” Woods said. “But I said, ‘Hey, you know, I can still play this thing out of bounds, so let’s suck it up and let’s hit some shots here.’ But once I got the ball on the green, then I gave [caddie] Joey [LaCava] a high-five, because it was done. I can handle that from there.”
It was a far cry from this time last year, when Woods was still waiting for his lower back to fuse and wasn’t sure he could ever play again. He told stories of being unable to get off the couch to watch his kids play soccer, much less to chip and putt.
“It’s been tough,” Woods told NBC’s Dan Hicks during the trophy presentation. “I’ve had a not-so-easy last couple of years and I’ve worked my way back and … it’s just hard to believe I’ve won the Tour Championship.”
Tiger Woods won a PGA Tour event in the year 2018. A year ago, that was incomprehensible. He was just receiving clearance to hit short chip shots. It seemed unlikely that he’d return to competitive golf. It seemed like pure fantasy he’d be good enough to just make it to the season-ending Tour Championship, where only 30 players get an invite via their season-long success. But he did make it, and then won it. – Neal Bhai Reports