It’s like he never went away.
It’s surprising but perhaps not shocking how many people are now saying that they always believed in Tiger Woods and “knew he’d win again,” now that he’s the reigning Masters champion. All of those Tiger fans knew something even Woods himself didn’t, because apparently during the darkest times when he was too hurt and too lacking in confidence to compete, only Tiger’s caddie thought he could still do it.
But he did it, and now Woods has another chance to do the one thing in his epic career that has eluded him so far: win the Grand Slam in a calendar year. He famously once held all four major trophies at the same time, but the “Tiger Slam” — though amazing — could never capture the imagination the way a true Grand Slam would any more than if a rule change allowed a horse to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes this year and then next year’s Kentucky Derby. It’s impressive…it’s just not the same.
Bethpage Black’s custodians have no worries this weekend. (Photo Credit: Peter Casey, USA TODAY)
Give Woods this much, too: He has an amazing sense of timing. The next two major championships will be contested at courses where he has already lifted the trophy.
Bethpage Black was the site of the U.S. Open in 2002. Woods won the tournament and was the only player in the field to break par, beating nemesis Phil Mickelson in the process and further paving the way for golf tournaments to stop being polite, demure affairs where spectators were expected to watch, cheer when appropriate and otherwise be quiet. Long Island might be posh, but it’s still New York.
By 2009, the next U.S. Open held at the Black, Woods was still the hammered-on #1 player in the world and favored to win again on a course he had beaten before. But an opening round 74 on a rainy, slow track derailed Woods. Woods broke 70 in the next three rounds, though, and tied for sixth.
Woods’ history at Bethpage has some people reaching for their wallets:
our largest wager on the PGA Championship just came in …10k on Tiger at 10/1 @SuperBookUSA
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) May 14, 2019
That’s small-time, though, compared to the Wisconsin bettor who had $85,000 on Woods at 14/1 in the Masters. He’s back and going for the big score: $100,000 on Woods to win the Grand Slam at 100/1.
Perhaps the best indicator that Woods is all the way back is that his famous petty streak is on display again. Human caricature and former PGA Championship winner John Daly is playing at Bethpage Black this week. Daly has osteoarthritis in his right knee, and the PGA of America is granting him an exemption to ride a golf cart during play. This is ironic on a few levels, one of which is that Bethpage Black traditionally is walking-only for everyone else.
Did Woods have an opinion? What do you think?
“I walked with a broken leg.”
Tiger Woods zinged John Daly for using a cart in this week’s PGA Championship. pic.twitter.com/yTEol7wKZI
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) May 14, 2019
Woods was alluding to his 2008 U.S. Open triumph over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines, when he played with a knee that was headed for surgery and two stress fractures in his leg. If anyone had any doubt as to whether Woods is “back,” that remark should resolve all questions. Woods is on top again and very happy to let everyone know it.
Further proof of Woods’ great timing is that, for the first time since 1949, the PGA Championship is being played in May instead of in August. Woods will not have to contend with the sweltering heat of deep summer to win this tournament.
If he wins at Bethpage, Woods then goes on to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where you might remember he won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 freaking shots. If Woods somehow manages to win both the PGA and the U.S. Open, well, pity the poor folks at Royal Portrush who will have to deal with an onslaught of golf fanatics and history-seekers previously unseen in golf. The Grand Slam would also tie Woods with Jack Nicklaus for major championship wins in a career at 18.
Will Woods win the Grand Slam? Probably not. Until he doesn’t, though, there’s no harm in imagining it.