Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tiger Woods Takes Chevron World Challenge - Is He Back?

Biggest question... Woods' game still in the woods?
Tiger Woods bested Zach Johnson with an 18th hole birdie, his second straight, to grab his own Chevron World Challenge title. He finished at -10, one clear of Johnson, who he battled all day in a tight back and forth match. No one else really contended, making this almost a match play scenario. Sunday was calm in contrast to the blasts of Santa Ana winds that colored the first three days. His final round 69 erased a one shot deficit to Johnson at the start of the round. Johnson therefore carded a 71 today. Woods' game is obviously improving. You can tell by his ball striking and trajectory. He's regained some of his legendary control of the ball, but still some questions remain....

1. Is a victory over just 17 other players an indication of Woods return to form? Probably not. With the tiny field I see it as just north of MJ winning a game of HORSE in his driveway. Still, a win's a win and no pro golfer needed one more than Woods.

2. Can he carry the improved shot making into 2012? Only one way to find out. Play the tournaments. It's no coincidence that Woods' improvement is directly related to his increase in playing.

3. Any chinks in the armor? Well of course. Loose shots here and there. 27 putts on Friday, 32 on Saturday. Not the sort of consistency a player of Woods' pedigree looks for, but miles better than his PGA Championship performance.

4. What else will factor in Woods' 2012? Health. Four knee surgeries can't be on anyone's wish list. The rigors of a full, by Woods' standards, season will be the arbiter. One factor he can't account for is age, both his increasing and his prime competition's decreasing.

5. Bottom line? No sane person can argue that Tiger's not in the top two of all time. He's playing better, his self-imposed off the course problems are naturally fading. I see him winning two to three tournaments a year on a schedule of about 18 entries. Figure a major victory thrown in the mix and he'll give Nicklaus' record of 18 a run for it's money. I wouldn't be shocked to see them tied when all is said and done. If you'd have asked me ten years ago, I'd have figured him for 25.

*Average Golfer aside.... How can they call it a "World Challenge" with only 18 players?

Swing hard, they'll make more.