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the last word

ComebaCk Tale The return of a healthy Tiger Woods to the PGA TOUR in pursuit of his first victory since 2013 is something not to be missed

By Bill Fields

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PGA TOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE 2018, Part 2

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“If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments,” Woods said on Sunday evening at Bay Hill, “I would have that taken that in a heartbeat.” Such an admission is not only an observation of where Woods is but where he was at the depth of back woes—debilitating nerve pain in his back and legs, having a hard time walking short distances and seriously doubting whether he would have a chance to resume his playing days. “My back was fried,” Woods said prior to this year’s Masters. “I was trying cortisone shots, epidurals, anything so maybe I might be able to withstand a week. Nothing worked. My disk was gone. So given how I feel now versus then, it’s just night and day.” Even without winning, Woods has smiled more in 2018, his comeback already a success if measured by the fact that he is inside the ropes with a scorecard in his pocket again. The wins will happen or they won’t, but given how close he already has come, only a fool would count him out. 

Tiger Woods connected with fans as he walked to the seventh tee during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, where he tied for fifth.

images: Us Pga TOUR

ind was not the only thing to be felt in March. At consecutive tournaments in Florida (large galleries where it helped immensely to be on the tall side) and wherever those events were followed from afar (it was a banner fortnight on social media for emoji of a certain jungle cat), Tiger Woods was a story to absorb and appreciate. It was because he hadn’t been there—in the hot, tense mix of contention late on a Sunday, that time of the week that he used to own—in a long time. Now 42 years old, he didn’t know if he would ever be physically able to be in that position again. Yet, at the Valspar Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, Woods was very much a factor. For the first time in a while, his playing career, once in a singular orbit but derailed by a serious lower-back problem that required April 2017 spinal fusion surgery after several previous procedures, didn’t seem as if it was going into a breeze. Woods came up short, tying for second on the Copperhead Course of Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club and tying for fifth at Bay Hill Club and Lodge as Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy broke respective droughts of their owns. At Innisbrook, Woods holed a monster putt on the 71st hole that sent him to the final hole with momentum and opportunity, but he wasn’t able to hit his approach shot to reasonable birdie range. At Bay Hill, McIlroy’s stellar closing 64 would have made him hard to catch regardless of what anyone else did, but Woods sealed his fate with an indecisive drive that went out-ofbounds on the par-5 16th hole. But if a golfer with 79 PGA TOUR career victories—second to Sam Snead’s 82—who once decried anything less than a top finish can said to be winning when he didn’t, the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard were such occasions.

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Profile for Magazine

Official PGA TOUR Essential Guide to Golf: 2018 Part 2