There wasn't a lot of good news for Tiger Woods in 2015 … and 2016 isn’t looking too rosy, either.
But there were a few moments this year when Woods looked like his old self, fist-pumping his way up the leaderboard and raising the decibel level in the massive galleries that still turn out to see him.
I witnessed two of those charges at the Quicken Loans National and in his season finale at the Wyndham Championship.
Yes, both times Woods stumbled on the weekend and hit plenty of shockingly bad shots. But there is still nothing like watching Woods charge up a leaderboard.
Just listen to the crowd after Woods holed a flop shot at the first hole in his opening round at the Wyndham.
I've heard a roar louder than that only one other time, and it was in the final round at the 2012 Memorial when Woods did this:
At the Quicken Loans, you could hear how desperate people are to see Woods return to the top. He began the season with a missed cut and WD at Torrey Pines. Woods then took a leave of absence after it was obvious he had the chipping yips. He returned at the Masters and finished a respectable T-17, but in between Augusta and Quicken, Woods shot his worst round as a pro (85 at the Memorial) and missed the cut at the U.S. Open and the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
Many began to wonder if Woods would ever win again. (Unfortunately for his fans, that's still an unanswered question.) He even had to deflect questions about retiring. So when he opened with rounds of 68 and 66 at Quicken, it wasn't just people cheering loudly for a popular player. It was Woods giving his fans something they had been wanting all year – hope. Hope that he wasn't down for the count. Hope that he was turning his game around. Hope that his miraculous comeback was starting now, this week, right in front of them.
A Saturday 74 ended any chances of his first win since 2013 being at the Quicken Loans, but at the Wyndham, Woods gave his fans more hope. He not only opened with that thrilling flop shot, but Woods was able to build on that momentum with rounds of 64, 65 and 68.
More fist pumps. More deafening roars.
Woods was playing the Wyndham for the first time in a last-ditch effort to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs, so a lot of the fans in Greensboro had never seen the 14-time major champion in person. And they also knew – because of the Wyndham's spot on the schedule – that there was a good chance they may never see him again.
That's why even after a triple on No. 11 knocked him out of contention, Woods' gallery never cleared out. Not even to see North Carolina Tar Heel Davis Love III shoot a magical 64 and win his 21st PGA Tour title at age 51.
Woods' fans kept cheering as he birdied four of the last six holes, giving them, and himself, hope that better days were ahead.