Tiger Woods Back on the Prowl

Although Tiger Woods has not won a tournament in five years, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to be the biggest story every time he tees it up. Woods has suffered from many injuries over the past few years and most recently a lower lumbar fusion surgery. There has never been a player on the PGA Tour that has had this surgery and returned to play so Woods is in uncharted waters on this one. Unlike past injuries and surgeries (he has had four total back surgeries) Woods made sure that he took his time coming back from this one and completely recovered and rehabbed.

Wood’s first appearance of the season was at his own tournament, the Chevron Hero World Challenge. Although not an official PGA Tour event, Woods played well but had a mixed bag of both good rounds and bad rounds. Woods has played in five events since the World Hero Challenge and mostly recently the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Although Woods is not completely back and will likely never be able to get back to where he once was, he is showing great progress and is looking like he will compete throughout the season. Woods has had to learn how to play the game a little differently because of his surgery and aging body, now at 42. Woods has made comparisons of his game as to riding a bike, “It’s like riding a bike, but just a different type of bike.”

At the Valspar Championship, Woods finished in a tie for second and at the Arnold Palmer Invitational a tie for fifth. At the Valspar, Woods put himself in the hunt on Sunday by a great display of the short game. Woods was able to get within one of the lead on the 71st hole of the tournament after draining a long birdie putt from across the green. He then had a chance to tie the lead on the 72nd hole but his birdie putt came up a little short and Woods had to settle for second. People were excited to see him back in the hunt evident by the Valspar’s huge ratings. The final round of the Valspar Championship drew better ratings then any tournament last year except for the Masters.

The one club that has haunted Woods recently— and his whole career— has been the driver. This was especially true at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament that he has won eight times in his career. For most of the week, Woods was hitting irons off the tee to try and keep it in the fairway but, after getting to within one shot of the lead, Woods headed to the par five 16th hole on Sunday and pulled out the driver. This hole was very reachable for Woods even with an iron but he decided to get aggressive and pull out driver. Ultimately Woods hit his tee shot out of bounds and in result, ended any chance he had at winning the tournament. His second tee shot after hitting it out of bounds went in the middle of the fairway and he had a wedge into the green and walked away with a two putt bogey. Since Woods clearly didn’t need the driver to reach the short par five in two, it had many people questioning his choice. After the round, Woods said that he did not fully commit to the shot and in result hit it out of bounds.

One thing that Woods definitely did not have difficult with was putting ; specifically  putting from inside nine feet. During the tournament Woods had over fifty putts from this range and made every single one of them. The play that Woods has shown has gotten fans excited and it has also made him the favorite to win the Masters coming up in a few weeks, starting April 5th.

If Woods can continue putting well and fix up his tee ball, he will have a great shot at competing at Augusta National, a place where he has already won four green jackets and is seeking a fifth. Believe it or not, Woods has not won the Masters since 2005, where he edged out Chris DiMarco and had his famous chip in on the 16th hole. Woods also has not won a major since 2008 at Torrey Pines, where he beat Rocco Mediate in a memorable playoff, while playing on essentially a broken leg.

Whether you like Tiger Woods or not, there is no doubt he draws attention to the game of golf and it is more popular when he is in the field. Will we see Woods put a fifth Green Jacket on in a few weeks? I guess we will have to wait to find out.


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