PALM HARBOR, Fla. -It was Tiger Woods’ best finish since 2013, when he tied in 2nd place in the Barclay’s, and the question is coming up again, as it has for the past five years: I Tiger back?
Woods didn’t end his near five-year title drought but the American came close, finishing tied for second — one shot behind winner Paul Casey. And with the Masters coming up in a few weeks, it’s a great time for a solid performance.
Woods last won one of golf’s four majors in 2008 and 300 days removed from fusion surgery, and five months after admitting he might not play competitively again, the 42-year-old Woods was this close to winning an official PGA Tour event.
Woods grabbed a share of the lead early in the final round in just his fourth start on the PGA Tour since being sidelined for a year. While an uncooperative putter proved to be his downfall, he did come charging late with a birdie from 43 feet on the 71st hole left him one behind. But his 39-foot birdie chance to force a playoff on the 72nd hole fell two feet short. He shot 70 and for the first time since 2013, he broke par in all four rounds in a tournament.
“My game was quite solid this entire week,” said Woods, who will play this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he has won a record eight times. “As a whole, I felt very good about what I did this week. I believe my game is progressing.
Casey had his own doubts to deal with and ended a winless drought on the PGA Tour of nine years with a one-shot victory over Woods and Patrick Reed on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf Resort.
We know now, without getting carried away in the typical hyperbole surrounding Tiger-mania, that Woods can contend again and he can win again, maybe as soon as this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Tiger-mania has also returned, as the gallery for Valdosta increased with each day of the tournament. Tiger is now a 10-1 favorite to win the Masters this year.