On a sunny setting at Palm Harbour, Florida, it was nearly the perfect story for Tiger Woods after his positive performances since he cameback from injury.
He was in scintillating form over the first three days of the Valspar Championship and spectators were treated to glimpses of the ‘Tiger of old’. After rounds of 67, 68 and 70, Tiger was going into the final round almost able to taste victory.
It’s been 1681 days since Tiger Woods last won on the PGA Tour and almost three years since he has been in genuine contention for success on the ‘Sunday’. Before the final round started you would only say a handful of players would have a realistic chance of getting their hands on the trophy, Tiger, Justin Rose, Patrick Reed, Sam Burns and Corey Conners. Bookmakers didn’t give Paul Casey a fighting chance after being five shots back before play had begun, how wrong they would be.
Although Woods just couldn’t get anything going, he drove the ball really well ball but he couldn’t get his iron shots close enough to threaten the competition. Patrick Reed and Paul Casey both started in an impressive fashion in particular Casey who went out an hour and 20 minutes before the leaders.
Casey who went on a run of getting six birdies in nine holes quickly put himself in contention and when he finished his six under round it was a waiting game to see who could catch him. A one under round of 70 from Tiger and a three under round of 68 from Patrick Reed were only enough to secure tied second place, one shot behind Casey on 10 under. Elated after his victory, the Englishman straddled the line between fan and player as he overcame one of his golfing heroes to win for the first time in 9 years.
“If I don’t win this week I want Tiger to win. I’m afraid to say that”
Casey has been knocking on the door of the pinnacle of his profession a lot since his last victory, but hasn’t quite managed it, he has been more consistent of late but has struggled to the get the job done. Winning the Valspar will do wonders for his chances of a Ryder cup pick. If Casey can go on a run of finishing well in the tournaments up to and including The Masters, he will certainly make European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn’s job a lot harder.
Other players on the fringes of a Ryder Cup pick, the likes of Webb Simpson or Zach Johnson also had a good week and their positive performances in recent weeks, could be giving the US Captain Jim Furjk a sore head as he grapples with who to take to France this September. Tiger Woods on the other hand you would say is a shoe-in for a call up based on his recent form but it is about consistency and it’s important that he continues playing well here into next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. After the tournament last night Woods was far from impressed, his body language made that quite clear, which is perhaps a sign that the old Tiger is back, full of fight, determination and high expectations.
“I gave myself a chance,” he said, “and I had all the opportunity in the world, I just didn’t get it done.”
Throughout Tigers’ comeback, he has taken a long view approach, baby steps not breakthroughs have been the focus. His performance here in Palm Harbour bodes well for the future and for Tiger fans, you expect to see him in with a chance every time he plays. He awoke the ghosts of past greatness and it seems just in time for The Masters which starts on the 5th of April.
Prior to making his comeback in November, Bookmakers had Tiger at 100/1 to win the masters, now after a couple of good finishes in recent tournaments and his performance this week, he now sits at 10/1. That is a dramatic market shift and with how Tiger has performed in recent weeks suggests its justified. The infamous Tiger roar could just be about to make a comeback.
*all odds are subject to change