Wonderful Tiger Woods Writes Another Piece of History
HOW on earth did that just happen? The last time we saw Tiger Woods was when he struggled through four rounds at the BMW Championship and failed to make the field for the Tour Championship. He had earlier withdrawn after the first round of the Northern Trust and hobbled away from Royal Portrush after missing the cut at The Open Championship. Weeks later he was under the knife for the umpteenth time in his career, this time with a knee injury. He had defied all expectations - probably even his own - by winning The Masters in April to secure his 15th major. But his season went rapidly downhill from that point.
And then he turns up in Japan for the inaugural Zozo Championship and, having played no competitive golf whatsoever since July, he only went and won the thing. In so doing, he equalled Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins. Just to prove that he is back in business again, he did it the hard way. The second round was washed out on Friday, which meant it was played on Saturday without a single paying spectator in evidence. The organisers deemed it too dangerous, fearful that there would be a spate of ankle injuries if fans slipped on the saturated surface.
Woods shot a second successive 64 and led by two shots after 36 holes. He then played 29 holes on Sunday, moving to 18 under par and increasing his lead to three shots after a third round of 66. He duly came back with the rest of the field to complete his final seven holes and write himself another piece of golfing history.
“Yeah, I have,” Woods said, when asked if he’d played this much golf in one day since he had his left knee operated on for the fifth time two months ago. “But it’s in a cart.”
It was remarkable that the organisers were able to get the tournament finished after an astonishing 10 inches of rain fell on Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club.
“I think it’s the mind,” said Woods when asked what was most taxing about playing so many holes on Sunday, when he completed his round at 1pm, changed his blue shirt for a red one, and went back out for the final round at 2pm. “Being in it for 10 hours is a long period of time … the mind tends to wander a little bit and just got to grab it and make it come back and be 100% committed on the shot.”
He considered having his left knee operated on for the fifth time in late 2018, but wanted to play a full schedule last season and put it off, finally going under the knife again on August 20 when he knew he had failed to qualify for the Tour Championship, which he won in such sensational fashion last year.
It’s an honor to be tied with Sam Snead for most wins in @PGATOUR history. Thanks Mom and Pop and everyone who helped make this possible. Hideki put up an amazing fight on his home soil, but to do this in Japan is something I’ll never forget. It’s been an awesome year. pic.twitter.com/m9ICuVyJmX— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) October 28, 2019
Woods led wire-to-wire for his 82nd PGA Tour victory. He duly returned to the course on Monday to complete his final seven holes in one under par for a round of 67, beating local hero Hideki Matsuyama, who also had a 67, by three shots.
“Well, it’s a big number,” Woods said of his 82nd victory. “It’s about consistency and doing it for a long period of time. … I’m very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had so far.”
As with the other 81 victories, Woods wore red in the final round. After being called off the course because of darkness on Sunday, he and 45 other players returned on Monday morning to complete their remaining holes. Woods bogeyed the 12th and saw his three-shot lead cut to two, but Matsuyama failed to convert a short birdie putt at the par-five 14th. Woods birdied the same hole and cruised home, finishing with another birdie at the 18th. Sungjae Im (65) and Rory McIlroy (67) tied for third at 13 under, six back.
Woods now has a dilemma. Does he pick himself for the US Presidents Cup team as only the second playing captain in the history of the event? "I think the player definitely got the captain's attention,” Woods said with a smile. He is captain of the USA team that will take on the Internationals in the biennial team competition at Royal Melbourne on December 12-15. Woods will add four players to his side the week after the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions with the help of his assistant captains and the eight players already on the team.
If he only knew ...— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 28, 2019
The only two with 82. pic.twitter.com/6B4s3oYg5E
Gary Woodland, the US Open champion who is also hoping for a pick and who played with Woods over the final two rounds in Japan, believes it is a no-brainer. “If he doesn’t [pick himself] that’s dumb because right now it is hard to bet against that guy in anything, especially in matchplay,” Woodland said. “He’s going to have a force whether he is playing or not but I would pick him.”
The doubt around Woods being in Australia in a playing capacity centred around his fitness, but he has surely put that to bed.
“Physically, I can't do any of the things I used to do,” he says. "That's just the way it is. Four back surgeries and my body just can't do what it used to do, but I can certainly think my way around the golf course. The knee didn't allow me to rotate, and because of that it put more stress on my lower back and my hip. Now I'm able to clear a little bit better, I feel better, I'm able to hit shots that I know I can hit and this week was a good sign for the future.”
Woods has played on eight previous Presidents Cup teams, the last in 2013, and has a 24-15-1 record. He was a member on the 1998 and 2011 teams that also played at Royal Melbourne. He also secured the clinching point for the U.S. team in the 2009, 2011 and 2013 Presidents Cups.
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