By Seth Rivello
The most feared man in the golf world seems to be back to his full form. Tiger Woods has been playing at a level he hasn’t been at in five years. It’s very exciting to see but can also be very disappointing.
Woods dressed in red for the final round Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and seemed like a real threat, then he fell off. The 42-year-old hung around with the young guys as long as possible until he settled for pars on holes 14 and 15 then bogeyed 16 and 17.
Tiger finished 10-under-par and tied fifth with Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau, and Rory McIlroy ahead of him. McIlroy ended his winless drought and brought home a trophy after birdieing five of the last nine holes finishing 18-under.
As much fun as it is to see Tiger smile and enjoy his time on the course, it’s almost like he’s lost something. When it comes down to the final nine, he chokes. Old Tiger didn’t joke around and laugh. He was always in a competitive mode and wanted to beat you by 100 when he was out on the course. I think he’s lost that “I’m going to destroy you today” mindset and if he wants to beat this young generation he needs to find that again.
At the Valspar Championship, Woods finished tied second at nine-under with Patrick Reed behind Paul Casey’s 10-under. On Sunday’s 18 holes, Tiger finished with only two birdies and a bogey while Casey birdied seven of the final 18. Showing again Tiger cannot finish on Sundays like he used to.
Two things that made Tiger really stand out was his competitiveness and his ability to turn par-5s into short par-4s. Players couldn’t keep up with Tiger, while they were hitting 7-irons into the green he was hitting a wedge to set up eagle or birdie. Now guys like Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and a handful of other players do this every match. That’s hard to do when you’re double some of these guys’ age and your back is fused together. One wrong twist and Tiger’s back can turn into gelatin again.
The first and most prominent of the four majors golf has is less than a month away: The Masters.
Tiger has won The Masters four times with his last win coming in 2005. Right now he has the best odds to win at 9/1 followed by Dustin Johnson (11/1), Jordan Spieth (14/1), and Justin Thomas (15/1).
Seeing Tiger pull out a win would be amazing. That would be his 15th major win and it would leave him three away from the most all-time at 18 held by Jack Nicklaus. Achieving that would put Tiger on an even higher pedestal and if he’s not the greatest golfer ever that would put him well over the top.
I think Justin Thomas who looked up to Tiger as a kid steals the glory at The Masters. He’s been on fire since the beginning of 2017 including his first major win the PGA Championship. In February, he got his first win of the year at The Honda Classic. Since then he’s been laying low and working on his game and ready to get that second major.