Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events and news developments. This week we learned about Tiger passing Jack on the all-time wins list and that the intimidation factor is back.
That Tiger Woods may not be the player he once was but he’s closer than many gave him credit for. On an Open-like golf course with a quality field closing around him it was vintage Woods, playing 41 holes without a bogey and keeping time while those around him fell away. A perfectly executed drive and approach into the 18th hole on Sunday at the AT&T National served to prove the point that he may have lost a little on his fastball, but Woods is still the game’s best closer.
We also discovered that Congressional has more bite than last year’s record scoring at the U.S. Open suggested. The Blue Course featured a scoring average more than two strokes over par (73.043) and just 14 players under par for the week, compared to 20 at last year’s Open. Given the proper conditions, Congressional can still be plenty cruel. – Rex Hoggard
I learned that while the case of whether Tiger Woods is “back” remains a matter of personal opinion – some people think he’s been “back” for a year; some think he won’t be “back” until he wins another major – we can safely claim that Tigermania is “back” in a big way. That may sound like I’m stating the obvious, considering the dude is the game’s most polarizing golfer ever. But without a major win since 2008 and with mediocre finishes at both the Masters and U.S. Open so far this year, it wasn’t difficult to sense that public patience with Woods had started to wane in recent months. Even after victories at Bay Hill and Muirfield Village, there was an undercurrent of disillusionment with his overall game. Not anymore. In my eyes, his third win of this season once again pushed Tigermania into overdrive – a phenomenon that will only increase with more titles as the year continues. – Jason Sobel
I learned that Tiger Woods is again the closest thing to a dominant player in the sport. It's not Luke Donald or Rory McIlroy, and it's no longerYani Tseng, who is surprisingly mediocre at the moment. If this is all a process, Woods has taken the necessary steps to be considered (reconsidered) the game's best player. – Mercer Baggs
I may not have actually learned this, but certainly was reminded at the AT&T National – Tiger Woods still has the intimidation factor. If you think he doesn't, how do you explain contenders wilting in each of his three victories this year? Graeme McDowell failed to mount a charge at Bay Hill, Rory Sabbatini and Spencer Levin caved down the stretch at the Memorial and Brendon de Jonge and Bo Van Pelt handed Woods the AT&T National. It's not a coincidence. If Woods had found himself in a similar situation Sunday at the U.S. Open, it would've happened there too. Since the intimidation is back so quickly, was it ever gone in the first place? – Jay Coffin
I learned the one nagging knock on Tiger Woods' quickly redeveloping game and confidence is no longer a hindrance. Woods has been struggling for most of the season inside 125 yards - basically, the part of the course that had buttered the bread of his former dominance over the golfing world. Despite wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial Tournament, Woods did not flex short-game muscle at those venues quite like he did this week to win the AT&T National. In picking up PGA Tour win No. 74, Woods was largely a maestro with wedges. Time and again, he hit crisp wedge shots to give himself looks at birdies, chances to save par and maintain the momentum so crucial to winning. The third shot on Sunday to No. 16 aside, if Woods can transport this wedge game to other venues - particularly Lytham in three weeks' time - he will be tough to beat.. – Ryan Ballengee