Monday, 26 March 2012

Woods You Believe It

In the week that a book comes out from his former coach allegedly making startling revelations into the true persona behind the man, Tiger Woods chose the perfect moment to return to the winners circle at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Florida. It ends a thirty month drought without a win and is the ideal riposte to those that criticised his recent withdrawal in the last round in the WGC-Cadillac Championship citing a sore achilles, when to many, it seemed an excuse for a very poor final round.

It seems impossible to keep Mr Woods too far from the headlines but this return to form has to bode well for Augusta and the Masters in two weeks time. He knows the Georgia course as well as anyone and if his game really is on song again then he could really be in contention come the last nine holes on the Sunday. There have been signs in recent weeks that the Woods swing is beginning to come back to something close to his best but he didn't seem capable of holding it together for four full rounds. Indeed when he carved a ball a long way out of bounds during the third round on Saturday, some of the so called TV pundits were already making noises about the swing going AWOL again. However, he rallied and held a lead going into the last round. Although there is no longer the air of invincibility surrounding Woods, he is still a form front runner and when Graham McDowell opened up with a double bogey, and the close contenders all found it hard to make pars in the opening holes, the gap widened and in the end it was a win at a canter.

Tiger with the trophy that marks a return to form and ends a long drought
On top of this, the win was enough to put Tiger up to number six in the world rankings. Will he be able to make it all the way back to the summit? Clearly he needs to play with the consistency of old and there is still a nagging doubt deep inside my brain as a neutral observer, that maybe that word will be key. If he can perform well for four rounds at Augusta and be somewhere in the hunt I think Woods will start to believe the work he and Sean Foley have done is beginning to bear fruit. If he believes and trusts and just goes out and plays then I have no doubt we'll be hearing a lot more about Tiger this year and for all the right reasons.

His putting has also come under the spotlight in the last few months and again there were those within the game that were saying he couldn't hole out as he use to. There seemed precious little wrong with the putter this week and again, if that holds up in two weeks time then no-one knows the greens better than Woods. It is small wonder that some bookmakers have installed Woods as favourite on the back of his win.

I may not know much about golf, but in my humble opinion, a Tiger Woods that is swinging the club well and with freedom and with the ability to make some clutch putts under pressure again is great to watch. I have no doubt ending the drought and getting the winless tag off his back is going to be huge and that Woods will win again soon. Whether that will be at the Masters is the $64,000 question. I'm rooting for a Donald, Westwood or McIlroy win but failing that I wouldn't begrudge Woods another major and a step close to the 18 major titles that Jack Nicklaus holds. Wouldn't it be great viewing to have a stellar cast going at it head to head on the Sunday. Can you imagine someone like McIlroy and Woods in the last group out with Mickleson and Donald just ahead and Westwood in the third last group with only the odd shot in it. That is what the Masters is all about.

One swallow doesn't make a summer, and one win certainly doesn't constitute a comeback but lets make no mistake about it, Woods is finding his game. That can only be good for the game the viewing public and sponsors and advertisers alike. The only people that it doesn't bode well for are his fellow competitors who may need to raise their games again. Let battle commence.

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