But Woods won Sunday at the Memorial, the Jack Nicklaus tournament he loves almost as much (five wins) as he loves Arnold Palmer’s tournament (seven).
So now he’s back — back to winning tournaments on courses he loves. That’s it, for now. His 2012 career trajectory could be charted using a pen attached to a bungee cord. You could get whiplash watching him bob up and down leader boards. He could certainly win the U.S. Open; he could certainly miss the cut at the U.S. Open. I’m eager to find out which — I’ll record “The Killing” and watch him instead, assuming he’s still in the game on Sunday night — but I’m not declaring him back.
Neither is he.
“I’ll let you guys figure that out,” he told the increasingly predictive media.
I know this is a pet peeve with me, and that pet is a dead horse, so feel free to skip this paragraph. The Open is 11 days away. Why do we have to decide the winner today? Why is it essential to “know” something before it happens? When did sports become predicting outcomes instead of watching events? Shared experience has become being the first person to correctly tweet who’s going to win something. Fun! I blame fantasy leagues, gambling and the media. That’s right, I said it.
I get the excitement of what happened Sunday. All the usual Tiger drama was there. It was his 73rd pro win, tying him with Nicklaus for second on the career list. Woods made one of those patented Woods miracle shots, the ones you remember years after. Nicklaus was in the booth, gushing over that shot, which helped Woods rally from two strokes down to win by two. (If you want to know one difference between Nicklaus and Woods, there it is: When someone, someday, ties Woods’s record for anything, he won’t be in the booth, saying things such as, “The most unbelievable, gutsy shot I’ve ever seen.”)
It was the kind of shot that makes you believe Woods is back, back from injury and his personal problems and his never-ending swing tinkering. But Bay Hill didn’t mean he was back, and neither does this. Racking up another Tour win is important to Woods, but not as important as those majors. They are what counts to him now, and catching Nicklaus in that category is more important than anything. He’s four short of his hero’s 18 majors. The sands are passing through that particular hourglass faster than Woods had expected. That may be what hurt him in Augusta: He knows if he’s going to get there, he really needs to get busy.