Well, that was fun. For the second straight Sunday at a major, the golf world was transported back to a world in which Tiger Woods was the biggest story in all of sports. I, for one, paced around my apartment for four hours like a kid waiting to open presents on Christmas morning. And based off what I saw on Twitter, I was far from the only one losing their mind watching Tiger put on a clinic yesterday.
These ten moments, stats and/or observations sum up not only how far Tiger has come over the past twelve months, but also how much he clearly still means to the status of golf itself.
- Bounces back from +3 through two holes to start tournament
A six footer to save bogey, followed by a wedge into the water from 118 yards leading to double-bogey.
I’ll admit it. After his second hole on Thursday, my interest level in the tournament was in danger of falling off a cliff. Tiger being out of it after nine holes is pretty much worst case scenario for all involved, and it looked like that was exactly where we were headed.
A quick shirt change and an approach shot to two-feet on his third hole stemmed the tide, and by days end, Tiger got things back to Even par. In hindsight he could have used a few more birdies on this day, but if not for that bounce-back early in the round, the magic we saw on Sunday would never have had a chance to even happen.
- Sunday — No fairways on front nine, shoots 32
How exciting was that front-nine? It was like watching Seve Ballesteros and mid-2000’s Tiger all wrapped up in one. Zero fairways, five greens, ten putts, and it all added up to a 32. The highlight was a carved iron shot from 172 yards of rough and trees, to ten feet. It would lead to birdie.
Tiger clearly still has work to do with the Driver and off the tee in general, and this came back to bite him later in the round. His tee shot on the gettable par-5 17th sailed well right and cost Tiger a shot at anything better than par.
- Gets it going on the back-nine on Sunday
After faltering in his previous few attempts at charging down the back-nine, Tiger rallied in a way we haven’t seen the likes of in years. It used to be a given that once Tiger put on the red shirt, the rest of the field was in trouble. On his road back to good health though, the final nine has been giving him fits.
Here are his other chances to win this year and how he fared on the final nine holes, compared with this past weekend’s finish.
Valspar Championship — 1-under 34 — Finished T-2nd
Arnold Palmer Invitational — 1-under 35 (+2 final three holes) — Finished T-5th
Quicken Loans National — 1-under 34 — Finished T-4th
Open Championship — 2-over 37 – Finished T-6th
PGA Championship — 3-under 32 – Finished Solo 2nd
- Shoots 70-66-66-64
I mentioned Tiger scrapping out an even-par 70 on the opening round this past week and how important that was to get some momentum going. That only matters though, if he is able to capitalize on that round and improve the rest of the way. That’s exactly what he did; improving each round en route to a solo second place finish.
Tiger’s Sunday 64 was his best ever final round in major, and -14 was his best ever non-winning score in a major. Progress.
- Bellerive Crowds
Tiger was quick to thank the masses after completing his final round yesterday, but even a thanks from the G.O.A.T doesn’t do justice to the infusion of energy the people of St. Louis brought to the event. In a week where the course took a lot of flack, the faithful fans made sure it was a memorable weekend for good reasons.
“Everybody on the golf course heard it,” Brooks Koepka said of the roars. “… He’s the greatest player to ever play the game, and to have the comeback that he’s having is incredible.”
“It was pretty cool,” Justin Thomas said. “The crowds were awesome. You could hear the roars from different parts of the golf course. It’s pretty apparent what a Tiger roar is versus anybody else.”
- Tigers Rankings
With the second place finish, Tiger jumped up in a number of categories:
World Rankings — 656th at the start of the year, to 26th now
Ryder Cup Standings — 20th pre-week to 11th
FedEx Cup Standings — 47th pre-week to 20th
We all assume Jim Furyk would have taken Tiger as a Captain’s pick anyways, but this makes it crystal clear. Tiger could still get into the top-eight on his own and allow Captain Furyk to select someone else, but regardless, we will be seeing Tiger teeing it up in Paris at the end of September.
Moving to 20th in the FedEx rankings will all but guarantee his inclusion in the Tour Championship at East Lake. The top 30 in the FedEx rankings will make their way to Atlanta for the final event of the season; one that looks like it will include Tiger.
And last but certainly not least, Tiger going from 656th in the world at the start of the year all the way up to 26th currently, is nearly mind-blowing.
- Tournament Ratings
At this point it’s common knowledge that Tiger is the needle when it comes to viewership, but this is next level.
CBS announced today a 6.1 rating for Sunday’s final round, up 69 percent from 2017.
The final round peaked between 7:00-7:15 p.m. Eastern Time with an 8.3 rating.
And St. Louis, where Bellerive Country Club is located, was the No. 1 market during the broadcast with an 11.5.
This is the PGA Championship’s highest rating since the last time Tiger Woods almost won the event. That happened in 2009 when Woods was the 54-hole leader, but was beaten by Y.E. Yang at Hazeltine, producing a 7.5 rating.
Prior to this week, Tiger’s highest rated final rounds at a PGA Championship were in 1999 when he squared off vs Sergio Garcia; that final round drew a 7.7. And the other, the one that will likely never be topped, is Tiger’s epic duel vs Bob May at Valhalla in 2000. That pulled a whopping 10.0
Suffice to say, for fans and networks alike, it’s good to have Tiger back.
- Next years major courses
He may not have gotten it done in 2018, but the rota of courses set to host majors in 2019, should have Tiger licking his chops.
April 2019 — The Masters — Augusta National (4x winner)
May 2019 — PGA Championship — Bethpage Black (Won 2002 US Open here)
June 2019 — US Open — Pebble Beach (2x winner, including by 12 shots at 2000 US Open)
July 2019 — Open Championship — Royal Portrush (Hasn’t hosted since 1951)
- Playoffs incoming
It’s pretty common knowledge for years now that the only tournaments Tiger really cares about are the four majors. Now that those are done for the year though, Tiger still has some opportunities to get a big win and get that particular monkey off his back.
Here are the potential events we could see him playing in between now and the Ryder Cup:
- Tiger’s overall health
Who would have thought the most talked about thing regarding the health of Tiger Woods this week would be how much he sweats.
Yes, despite the brutal Missouri heat causing Tiger to swap shirts multiple times a round this week, his back held up just fine. Tiger successfully (well, pretty successfully) completed all four majors this year and has yet to withdraw in 2018 due to injury. That alone is the #1 takeaway from this season so far; something none of us would have seen coming just 12 months ago.
Quotes from Tiger:
At the beginning of the year,” he said, “if you would say I would have a legit chance to win the last two major championships, I—with what swing? I didn’t have a swing at the time. I had no speed. I didn’t have a golf swing. I didn’t have — my short game wasn’t quite there yet. My putting was okay. But God, I hadn’t played in two years. So it’s been a hell of a process for sure.”
“I’m in uncharted territory,” he said. “Because no one’s ever had a fused spine hitting it like I’m hitting it. So, I had to kind of figure this out on my own and it’s been really hard, it’s a lot harder than people think. And I’m just very pleased at what I’ve done so far and now to be part of the Ryder Cup conversation, going from where I’ve come from to now in the last year, it’s been pretty cool.”