After a many a stop, the Woods train is now gathering pace

V Krishnaswamy Chiba | Updated on October 29, 2019

Tiger Woods celebrates at the Zozo Championship, a PGA Tour event, at Narashino Country Club in Inzai, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, Japan on October 28, 2019.   -  Kyodo/via REUTERS

Woods talks of when he first started thinking of Sam Snead’s 82 PGA Tour wins; the satisfaction at tying with him and how tough the comeback was even as followers await his joining Nicklaus at 18 Majors

Tiger Woods’ 50thPGA Tour win at the Buick Open in 2006 was sandwiched between his 11thand 12thMajors, the 2006 Open in Hoylake and the 2006 PGA at Harding Park. By the end of that year, he had 54 PGA Tour wins.

By the end of 2009, he had added two more Majors and 21 more PGA Tour wins to reach 71. Getting to Sam Snead’s 82 PGA wins and Jack Nicklaus’ 18 Majors seemed only a matter of time. Then it all came to a grinding halt.

He started the chase again in 2012 and the run till the end of 2013 brought in eight more PGA wins, but no Majors, and the number reached 79 – a measly three short of a mountain called Snead. Then it stopped yet again, but now for almost five years.

It was in September 2018, that No. 80 came at the Tour Championship. Followed by No. 81 at the Augusta, his favourite Major. And finally with No. 82 at Zozo Championship in far-off Japan, he joined Snead. Japan, hosting its first-ever PGA Tour event, was in some ways an apt venue for the monumental achievement, for Woods is revered far and wide. This week, he had the Japanese fans in a dilemma, whether to cheer for the home boy, Hideki Matsuyama, or the God of Golf, Tiger Woods. Maybe, even Matsuyama was happy to see Woods reach 82.

‘82...well, it’s a big number’

On Monday in Chiba, soon after he had joined Snead at Mt. 82, Woods was asked what was the point when Snead’s record started looking like a possibility. It seems that ‘82’ had entered his mind long before 2009. He said: “Well, I think probably when I got probably north of 50, but then unfortunately I went through some rough patches with my back and didn't play for a number of years, so that record seemed like it was out of reach. Having had my fourth back procedure and being able to come back and play at a decently high level again, it put the number back in the conversation again. Lo and behold, here we are tied.”

The enormity of 82 was not lost on Tiger, as he said: “Well, it's a big number. It's about consistency and doing it for a long period of time. Sam did it into his 50s and I'm in my early to mid 40s. So it's about being consistent and doing it for a very long period of time. I've been very fortunate to have had the career I've had so far.”

When the start-stop-start process kept repeating itself, between 2013 and 2018, even the believers had started nodding their head. Slowly but surely, he was being written off. Yet he kept trying. He got up; fell down; and got up again. The golf, which had become a crutch, was slowly being used for golf once again.

So, how satisfying was it prove all wrong? He said, “Well, it's satisfying to dig my way out of it and figure out a way. There are some hard times trying to figure it out, but I've come back with different games over the years, moving patterns, and this one's been obviously the most challenging. Then having another procedure a couple months ago and again coming back and winning an event, not easy to do, but I trust my hands and today was no different.”

Just for the record, Woods has 109 titles worldwide, including wins in Asia, Europe and Japan, too, which are not part of the PGA Tour.

Mental strength is a hallmark of Woods. So, where does he rank this win as he won the 2008 US Open virtually hobbling on one leg?

Woods replied: “This (Zozo) was certainly demanding. Being in the lead for the better part of five days, it puts a stress on the mind and not easy to do. It's not easy to handle. I've been in the position a few times in my career. I think the last time I was in this position was the TOUR Championship last year and it's stressful. It's very hard.”

The Hero challenge

Next up for Woods is his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge, with a sponsor, Pawan Munjal who stood by him at the worst of times. Woods has a way of writing his own script. Don’t be surprised, if he wins the Hero World Challenge, an event he has won five times before, to sneak past Snead in December.

However, before that he has the Presidents Cup, where he is the captain, but not in a playing capacity as of now. With Captain’s picks in his hand, he could choose himself. On current form, it would be a surprise if he did not pick himself to play, too.

As a rule, Woods does not get ahead of himself, but the legion of his fans do. Now, they are looking for more… 100 PGA Tour wins; more than 18 Majors and so on. That, then is the burden the ‘Gods of Sport’ have to learn to live with.

Published on October 29, 2019

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