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One of the toughest things in golf is learning how to forget. The weekend hacker steps on the tee at his local municipal golf course and, like a poker player, hardly remembers the great drives he’s hit there but almost always thinks back to the snap hooks and push cuts that sailed well outside the fairway.
For Tiger Woods, it was never about forgetting, but rather, remembering. When Tiger started his career on the PGA Tour his fear level was basically zero. He went out with the idea that every tournament was his, every trophy already had his name etched across it and the rest of the field was just battling for second. Then came the winter of 2009 and life changed. Tiger had finally been beaten. And for the next two seasons, Woods was slowly remembering how to be Tiger Woods. The opening act came at the 2010 Chevron World Challenge, when Woods won his first worldwide event in more than a year and, while it didn’t jump-start his return back to the top, it gave us an idea that there was still some gas left in the tank.
Then came the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2012. Woods won his first PGA Tour event since 2009 on a golf course that seemed built for his golf game. If Arnold Palmer was the King, Woods was the jester of Bay Hill and it was a perfect fit for a return back to the top.
But even then, it was hard for Tiger to remember what he had to do on the biggest of stages. The major championships still haunted him, and despite three wins in ’12 it never seemed that Woods was totally back to the form we had all come to love. He would struggle on the weekends of majors and we all wondered not if Tiger would break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, but if the guy would ever win another one, period.
At the Arnold Palmer Invitational, just a season after his return to the PGA Tour’s winner’s circle, those questions seem irrelevant.
Woods’ won his third PGA Tour event of 2013 and we aren’t even to the first major of the year yet. He’s done so on three incredible golf courses, all in “eliminate the field” fashion. Woods hasn’t just remembered who he used to be on the golf course, but he looks as comfortable with the lead, and his swing, as he has in nearly a decade.
The win returns Tiger to No. 1 in the world, a rightful spot for the best player in the game right now. His odds to win next month at Augusta National just keep improving, and why shouldn’t they?.
Tiger’s golf game is fitting of his new ranking in the world. His swing, while not perfect, is as solid as it’s been since he moved to Sean Foley, and when he misses golf shots he can now lean on a putting stroke that doesn’t seem to make questionable strokes anymore. When Tiger was at his best, it was those must-make par putts that seemed to be what impressed experts the most, and now they’re going in with regularity.
“Hit a bad shot, save par, and never let your opponent sniff the lead.” That’s the way Tiger is playing as the golf world turns to Augusta National.
Will he win the Masters? Nobody knows for sure, but for the first time since 2009 it seems that the biggest shock in the game of golf is if Tiger Woods isn’t wearing a green jacket come Sunday night, April 14.