Every gesture was under control, almost in slow motion compared to normal jubilant winners. His face showed little expression as he took off his hat. Perhaps four days of insane heat had simply drained him. But, afterward, as he spoke, it became clear that this win was just a stepping stone, part of a long desperately desired march toward the place he once stood — the top of the golf heap.
“What’s working?” he was asked.
“Pretty much everything,” said Woods, who shot 72-68-67-69 — an 8-under-par 276 on a Congressional layout that played tougher than it did for the ’11 U.S. Open. “There was a time when people were saying I could never win again. What, six months ago? Here we are.”
Four months, someone said. “Four months ago, okay,” he said, with a little smile.
He’s not happy yet. But he thinks he’s going to be. “I had a year away. I was hurt. This is what I can do,” said Woods, explaining why it has taken him so long to incorporate the teaching methods of new coach Sean Foley. “We see what’s coming. It’s just a matter of time. Stay the course. . . . My ball striking is getting better and better.”
Does this year remind him of ’09 when he won the same three tournaments — Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus’s invitationals, then his own AT&T in the first half of the year? “In ’09, I won six times,” he said. “It would be great to have that same total with a couple of majors.”
This is Tiger the Great speaking. It is also Tiger the Overbearing, or Tiger the Center of All Attention Since Birth, depending on your view.
Defiance is seldom becoming, but often impressive. And Tiger’s shoulder chip is growing with each Tour win. To a relatively minor question on an unrelated subject, Woods answered: “I won a U.S. Open on a broken leg. I can handle it.” The questioner said something ameliorating, like, “we didn’t know it was broken.”
“I did, though,” Woods said.
One competitive moment, on the 12th hole with Woods’s ball near a large tree 165 yards from the green, showed why Woods is, actually, just as different from everybody else (in golf) as he dares to announce that he is.
At the top of his backswing, he would almost hit the tree. On his downswing, he would certainly smash his nine-iron against it. “I told the gallery: ‘Be careful. This club might snap,’ ” Woods said. “I had to aim 20 yards right of the right bunker.”