That guy and that scene — missing since the 2009 Australian Masters — were back Sunday, with Woods beating Zach Johnson by one stroke in the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He birdied the final two holes and finished at 10-under 278. Oh, sure, the tournament is a far cry from majors that Woods used to regularly tuck away, but at this point for him a win is a win is a win. The Chevron is not a PGA Tour event; it is an 18-player invitational that benefits his foundation.
Woods, who has dealt with personal problems, a divorce, injuries, a revamped golf game and a fired caddie since a tumultuous 2009 Thanksgiving auto accident just a couple of weeks after that Australian win, wasn’t sure what to call what he was feeling; he was asked whether it was “joy, satisfaction or relief.”
“It feels awesome, whatever it is,” Woods said in an NBC interview.
With the win, his first in 749 days, Woods moves from 52nd in the world rankings to 21st — still a far cry from the No. 1 spot he used to own, but he’ll take it. With a fist pump.
“They all feel good, you know. They’re not easy,” Woods said. “People don’t realize how hard it is to win golf tournaments. I’ve gone on streaks where I’ve won golf tournaments in a row, but still, each one, I don’t think I’ve taken it for granted.
Even though there are a full six weeks between Tiger’s win and the next tournament he will play in, the win seemed to many a deserved reward for an excellent month of golf he has played to end the year. As AP explained:
A win at the Chevron World Challenge doesn’t provide much in the way of bragging rights. It’s not an official PGA Tour event, the field is limited to 18 players and it wraps up in the middle of an NFL Sunday, when most golf fans are paying closer attention to first downs than fairways hit. But after more than two years and 26 tournaments without a win of any kind, Woods isn’t about to hand this one back.
“It feels great,” he said afterward. “It’s kind of hard for me to elaborate beyond that.”
Here’s why: Woods won’t play tournament golf again until the end of January, when any momentum from the birdie-birdie finish he dropped on Zach Johnson to seal the deal will be little more than a fading memory. Ditto for the sometimes-sparkling golf Woods has played for nearly a month now, including nine of 11 rounds in the 60s and a handful of shots that no other golfer in the world could have pulled off.
But if there’s a takeaway from any of that, it’s this: For the first time in a long time, there was a feeling of inevitability about Woods’ final putt on the 18th green at Sherwood Country Club. It was only 6 feet, but it was also straight downhill, the way our expectations for Woods have been trending for some time now. Yet the second after the ball disappeared into the cup, an NBC camera cut to Johnson flashing his caddie a grin that suggested, “I can’t do anything about that” before walking across the green to shake hands.