Woods Steals Show at PGA Championship


Tiger Woods is the PGA Tour.

For the second time in as many Majors, part of you actually has to feel for the guy walking away with the trophy and million plus dollar payday. Perhaps even worse than Molinari being overshadowed at Carnoustie, Brooks Koepka, winner of both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship this season, and three of the last seven majors he participated in, did not sniff being the lead story. Sunday only confirmed that, with his valiant, six-under sixty-four, and the gallery and television viewing audience, who couldn’t get enough of Tiger Woods.

The tour opted to make Bellerive more difficult when the made the 500 yard par five tenth-hole a par four, bringing the course from a par seventy-one to an even seventy. This field still devastated the course, with a few players challenging for a major championship record sixty-two in a round, and the winner Koepka finishing sixteen-under, blasting his way into a tie for the lowest score at a major championship ever with a 264 to match Henrik Stenson at the ’16 Open Championship.


Brooks also joined the illustrious list of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods as the only golfers in the history of the tour to capture the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same season. All of these accomplishments aside, the eyes of the sports world found themselves glued to the action in St. Louis on Sunday for one reason. Tiger Woods.

Golf’s greatest modern champion is now a decade removed from his thrilling playoff duel with Rocco Mediate in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. This decade since his last major victory has been filled with turbulence. A lost swing, public embarrassment, a divorce, an extreme workout regiment, a faulty back, and more talk about whoever his current girlfriend happened to be than anything he did on a front or back nine. The last two majors of this season have changed all that. He will be forty-three at Augusta this coming spring, and a likely favorite to end this drought. Tiger has returned to prominence in the only way he truly could, playing well.


Having to endure the books and articles about his demise had to have been difficult for someone who was 21 when he captured his first Green Jacket and 25 when he completed the “Tiger Slam” of holding all four major titles at once. He captured the imagination of millions. His icy demeanor made golf cool. He was at once an unstoppable force, and immovable object from the top of the leaderboard.

To his detractors, let’s remember that when he took a year off to have his back mend, Nike stopped making clubs entirely. Many outlets have cited that viewership this season is up 69 percent year over year.

No one will ever tell you that Woods is a saint. He’s not, but Brooks Koepka doesn’t move the needle or capture the casual fan the way Tiger does. The “Tiger Effect” is real, as every time he’s in contention, the ratings come back and tell us that this is the most watched X tournament since X year when he last was in contention, late on a Sunday. One would think those articles are good to go by Saturday night, just waiting on the official numbers to roll in.

The most captivating part of this return to being a factor in major championships is how different he seems. There’s mortality to Woods that we haven’t ever seen before. That signature icy demeanor only shows up in flashes, on a driver twirl after a bomb finds the center cut, in a vicious fist pump after a birdie putt holes out to the bottom of the cup.


This Tiger is…funny? Nice? He rolled up to the driving range on Sunday in a backwards hat and sunglasses, temporarily taking over sports Twitter, and the social media site at large. He bumped fists on his way to a tee box with the adoring gallery in St. Louis. He smirked after an errant approach. He tipped his cap in acknowledgement of their support as they erupted after his birdie on eighteen, and kept it rolling on his entire walk up to signing his scorecard in the clubhouse despite being two shots back.

His former self seems to have melted away to reveal someone more real and less robotic. His new appreciation comes after being humbled by life, and perhaps feeling more and more sand piling up in the bottom of the hourglass of his career.

These next few years may be his last, best chances to challenge for that elusive fifteenth major title, or even Nicklaus’ record eighteen total. He feels it, and he is welcoming us along for the ride instead of confidently, coldly striding past us.

The ironic part of it all is, this “third act” of Tiger is really a victim of his own success. Look at the muscle bound Koepka and his thunderous drives and thousand-yard stare. Seem familiar? Woods got golfers to get into the weight room, and to play a serious game.

The kids who grew up, and likely took up the game because of him, now emulate his style. Jordan Speith plays with a fire. Justin Thomas is disgusted with himself after a mishit. They both have their own version of the “TI-GERRR” reaction the on-course microphones would pick up from an upset younger Woods. They and others of the “Tiger Generation” may just be the ones to take away a trophy from the aging champion, just like Koepka did this weekend.

This is a good time for golf, and that narrative that sells itself. Arnold Palmer is very much the Curt Flood of professional golf. His actions to get golf on television helped pave the way for the Tour of today. Woods wins his first Masters in ’97 for a purse of $486,000. By his 2001 victory, that had swelled to over a million, with greater amounts than before trickling all the way down the leaderboard.

To say nothing of the sponsorships and other lucrative deals that came players’ way in the Wake of the Tiger Boom. Palmer got everyone paid. Woods made everyone rich.

Golf needs Tiger.

If you’re planning on attending a Fedex Cup playoff event this fall, I suggest you arrive early if you want to even get near him. You can count on him as a surefire captain’s pick by Jim Furyk for what is sure to be the most stacked Team USA in the history of the Ryder Cup. Woods will be an elder statesman playing with the young men he inspired to now make up this “dream team.”

We’ll all be watching, assured that the best of the best is back.


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