Tiger 1876 for 80

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By : Christian Pegrum

It’s been 5 years long years. In fact, 1,876 days for Tiger Woods to notch win number 80 on the PGA Tour.
With Tiger (-12) taking a 3 shot lead into the final day of the Tour Championships over chasers World Number 1 Justin Rose (-9) and World Number 5 Rory McIlroy (-9), you were right if you were thinking that Tigers lead would quickly be eaten up by the current stars.
It’s been a long road for Tiger Woods since his last win in 2013.  In 2009, Tiger Woods world fell apart. His squeaky clean family life was quickly torn apart when affairs and scandal came to surface and the Tiger Woods we knew was no longer the same. Those events quickly impacted his career as he would need time away from the game and the Tiger Woods hype became more about things off the course then on it which included a car crash later that year.
Tiger Woods won six events in 2009 but would struggle to capture victories in 2010 and 2011 as the world doubted Tiger and whether he would ever be the golfer he was. From Tiger being the G.O.A.T., commentary quickly turned to ‘what should have been’ and we lauded Nicklaus the G.O.A.T. once again.
Tiger would go on to prove the doubters wrong however taking out 3 tour wins in 2012 from 19 starts and then a further 5 wins from 16 starts in 2013 only to then be cruelled by injuries to his back. Once again, the critics quickly came out and said that Tiger would never win again. He would never win on the PGA Tour let alone win another major and claim his throne as the Greatest Golfer of All Time.
Tiger played a total of 18 events over the 2014-15 season but his back was not right and we continued to see him struggle and strain his way around the course. He decided to step right away and get his back right and after over 2 years was ready to make a full comeback this year in 2018.
This year Tigers driving distance and ball striking has been phenomenal. His swing has looked great. His scoring average has been in the top 10 and his game has been slowly building all year with the infamous Tiger putter perhaps the last piece of the puzzle to come.
He started this weekend at Eastlake with the top 30 players of the season which was a great achievement in itself. His world ranking has gone from 1,199 at the end of last year to 21st in the World this weekend. His 1st round 65 (5 under) had him tied for the lead after day 1. He backed that with a 68 to stay in the lead group and on Saturday we saw spectacular before our eyes as Tigers magic stick was on fire and deep in our bellies we all knew that Tiger was truly back!!
Tiger birdied his 1st hole and then went on to birdie holes 3-7 needing only 11 putts on his front 9 to take a commanding lead of the Tour Championships. The world stood up, the crowds rocked Eastlake and we all dared to dream once again.
On Sunday, Tiger started with a birdie and gave himself a 4 shot cushion. It wasn’t long before that cushion became 5 shots as the chasers all began to faulter. Tiger was by far the most solid player out there hitting fairways and greens continually giving himself birdie looks. Tiger used all of his experience to smart his way around the course knowing that all he had to do was keep his cushion.
Tiger went through the turn at -13 under par with the closest chasers at -8. Only Billy Horschel with a -4 under round would close the gap and get to -9 leaving Tiger a lot of room to close out his first win in 1876 days. But what’s life without a bit of drama and when Tiger bogeyed 15 and 16, the lead was just 2 shots.
While that was all taking place, Dustin Johnson bogeyed what looked like an easy birdie putt on 18 and Justin Rose bogeyed 14 and 16 to slip down the leader board and take their hands off the $10M Fed Ex Cup title. Now the unthinkable was truly happening as Tiger had a 2 shot lead on not only the Tour Championship but the Season long $10M Fed Ex Cup cheque and trophy. However if Tiger lost his lead to Horschel, Horschel would go on to claim the title if Rose could not find a birdie on his closing two holes.
Fortunately for World Number 1 Rose, he would smash a 367 yard drive down 18 to then give himself a great approach look to the 18th green. With $10M of pressure on his back, Rose hit an approach that was only mm away from going in the bunker but fortunately bounced forward and on to the green to give him an Eagle putt where he would eventually make birdie and win the season long Fed Ex Cup.
Woods would par 17 and step on the 18th tee with his 2 stroke cushion still in tack. Hitting another perfect long drive down 18, it became clear that Woods was about to prove the doubters wrong and win PGA Tour event number 80 after 5 long years. As he walked down the 18th fairway toward the final green, crowds flocked behind him as what golf can only describe as the ‘Tiger Effect’. It’s been a long time since scenes like this have been seen and it was only Tiger that could bring them back again.
Cometh the moment, cometh the man and Tiger was relishing his rightful position as the thousands flocked around him whilst Rory McIlroy seemed to know the best thing to do was to run ahead and out of the way while security was the only thing between Tiger and the swarm of fans with smartphones in hand for another 100+ metre walk.
During the walk Tiger admitted the moment was getting to him. “I was tearing up a little down 18, and I had to tell myself I still got to get it done”. Tiger would play his 3rd shot outside of a greenside bunker as the chant of U.S.A. roared through the crowds as their champion was back with the Ryder Cup just around the corner. He would hit his bunker shot to within 10 feet to give himself a good look at a closing birdie.
Whilst Tiger settled for par, he claimed his 80th Tour Victory and the season ending Tour Championship. Golf could not think of a greater fairy-tale then to finish the 1,200,000 stroke long season with Tiger Woods taking the final putt to win his first victory in 1876 days. Tiger could not longer hold his emotions back as a long embrace with Rory solidified the G.O.A.T. was back and what was greater, Rory and the other up and comers of today enjoyed every moment of it with Fed Ex Cup winner and World Number 1 Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas amongst others waiting on the back of the 18th to congratulate him.
It’s been a long and painful journey for Tiger and no doubt there were times he would have thought his time was done. But we are all better for having Tiger still competing and even better for having him win today. I can only think of Michael Jordan to rival Tiger Woods as the other athlete to have such a significant impact on a sport and on people. The joy, love and passion that Tiger brings to fans and the world of golf is second to none and we are all grateful to see Tiger Woods, the Greatest Golfer of All Time, WIN, once again.
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