Tiger isn’t ‘back’, but he is awfully close

Published 5:09 pm Tuesday, March 13, 2018

If you could hear a loud, enthusiastic yell at 5:45 p.m. Sunday, you shouldn’t be alarmed. It was just the reaction of every golf fan around the world after watching Tiger drop a 44-yard putt to go to 9-under and a shot off the lead at the Valspar Championship.

To force a playoff, Tiger needed to do the impossible: another birdie putt on No. 18 to tie for the lead with Paul Casey and Patrick Reed sitting at 10-under. Casey was done and his score was final. Reed seemed like a shoe-in for a playoff. All he had to do was par the final ho—

Oh. Didn’t see that coming.

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An awkward putt over the ridge of the green didn’t have enough juice for Reed’s birdie attempt, and the dang ball rolled all the way—and I mean all the way—back to its starting point. A wasted shot and an almost guaranteed bogie. Disappointed, Reed finished his round and walked off the course in a daze, wondering how he let a possible win slip away.

Behind him stood Tiger, eyeing the 180 or so yards he’d need to cover for his approach shot. If it was good enough, he could one-putt for a birdie, tie with Casey and force a playoff. It wasn’t good enough, though. The shot landed about 40-feet from the hole, and this putt would be a little tougher than the previous one he nailed, uphill with a tricky ridge that could end his hopes just like it did Reed’s.

Tiger didn’t birdie. He made par, finished tied for second with Reed.

For a moment, though, that magical buzz in the bottom of my belly was telling me Tiger was going to do it, the same way he did it dozens of times in his prime.

Is Tiger “back”? No. He would need a win at a major to be “back”. But he’s getting close, and in the meantime he’s injecting some serious excitement into golf that we haven’t seen in years.