Few thought they would ever see Tiger Woods win a golf tournament again, but it might just happen. The 14-time major winner went agonisingly close to completing a dream comeback in the Valspar Championship, but despite having to settle for the runner-up spot it told us one thing…Tiger Woods is ready to win again.
Since making his long-awaited comeback from injury, Woods has now finished T9 in the Hero World Challenge—a tournament with a select field—T23 in the Farmers Insurance Open, missed the cut in the Genesis Open, finished 12th in the Honda Classic and now placed T2 in the Valspar Championship. Those results, with the Genesis Open aside, have been better than many considered possible for the former world number one after so many years struggling with injury.
But the competitiveness of Woods’ game on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook signalled that he is very much ready to add to his 79 victories on the PGA TOUR—the last of which was back in 2013 when he won the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. He is, perhaps, even ready to add to his 14 majors as we head towards next month’s Masters at Augusta, the scene of four of those major successes.
A trademark monster putt on the 17th left Woods needing another on the last to tie with clubhouse leader Paul Casey and set up a mouth-watering playoff. But it wasn’t to be as Woods signed off with a par and had to settle for the runner-up spot, his best result since also finishing second in the Northern Trust Open in 2013 during the FedEx Cup Series events.
But his performance at Innisbrook—which included incredible recoveries, chip-ins and those long drained putts—points to there being plenty of life left in the 42-year-old. Significantly, his body is holding up to the strains of golf after the pain of back surgeries that have kept Tiger Woods out of the limelight on and off for the past four years.
A dream comeback
“I had a chance today,” Tiger Woods said after the final round of the Valspar Championship. “Unfortunately, I just didn’t quite feel as sharp as I needed to with my irons and played a little conservative because of it. I keep getting just a little bit better. I had a good chance at winning this tournament. A couple of putts here and there and it could have been a different story.”
Ironically, it was a man with an even longer PGA TOUR drought who beat Woods in the Valspar Championship. Paul Casey ended a nine-year wait and added to his solitary tournament victory in the United States. Casey had enjoyed a dream final round to set the clubhouse lead and those behind were unable to catch him, including Woods and Patrick Reed, who bogeyed the last to miss out on a play-off by one shot.
If he couldn’t win it, there was only one other man Casey wanted to come out on top. “It was a week where Tiger played some good golf and (we) got to see some amazing stuff and hear the roars,” Casey said after his emotional victory. “I said a couple times if I don’t win this thing I actually want Tiger to win it.”