Tiger Hitting Stride But Has He Hit His Peak
More evidence came from his caddie as he waited for Woods to arrive for the final round of the Tour Championship.
'He hasn't hit a practice ball since the British Open,' Steve Williams said. 'I've been with him nearly 10 years now, and this is the best I've ever seen him hit the ball.'
No practice? Not quite.
What he meant was that Woods has such command over his game that he stopped going to the practice range after his rounds since returning home from Carnoustie.
Woods confirmed as much when he left East Lake with his two trophies -- one for the Tour Championship, one for the FedEx Cup.
'Hey, there was no need to go,' he said with a shrug and a smile.
Whether this is the best he has ever played is up for debate, but don't expect Woods to participate. He is always looking forward, always trying to figure out a way to get better. That's what makes it so daunting for the guys trying to reach his level. They know they have to get better, and that's assuming Woods doesn't continue to improve himself.
So far, that hasn't happened.
Since his latest round of swing changes took root at the end of 2004, Woods has won 21 times on the PGA Tour. That's more than Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk combined over the last three years.
And the truly scary part is that Woods, at age 31, might still be years away from his prime.
'I don't know when it's going to be,' Woods said. 'The whole idea is to try and keep improving. When all is said and done, when you rack the cue and go home and retire, you can honestly say, 'These were my best years, when I was at my peak.' But when you're in it, you're always trying to improve that a little bit to get to the next level.'
As the trophies keep piling up, the numbers are simply staggering.
Woods now has won 61 times in just more than 11 full years on the PGA Tour. Jack Nicklaus was 36 when he captured his 61st tour victory. He has won 28 percent of the time since turning pro, and that if that number is hard to fathom alone, consider than Mickelson has won 9 percent of his tournaments, Singh is at 8 percent and Ernie Els at 6 percent.
Woods' final putt for par at East Lake put him at 23-under 257 for the lowest 72-hole score of his career, and six shots better than the previous record at the Tour Championship. A week earlier at Cog Hill, he broke the tournament record by five shots at 22-under 262, winning by two over Aaron Baddeley.
With his 2007 season in the books -- all he has left is the Presidents Cup and his Target World Challenge in December -- Woods finished with a 67.79 adjusted scoring average, equaling his record from the 2000 season.
And while the $10,867,052 was short by $38,114 of the record Singh set in 2004, the big Fijian played 29 times that year. Woods played in only 16 tournaments. That's an average of $172,493 per round.
Woods said the latest adjustment since the British Open, where he tied for 12th, was simply shifting the weight more toward the balls of his feet for better balance. That made it appear he was standing closer to the ball.
Swing coach Hank Haney hasn't seen much change the last two years, with one exception. What he watched with regularity on the range at Woods' home course in Isleworth, he now sees more often inside the ropes on the PGA Tour.
'I've seen him play like this and hit the ball like this the last couple of years -- for sure the last year -- but most of times I've seen that, it's been at Isleworth,' Haney said Sunday from his home in Dallas. 'It's only been bits and pieces in tournaments.'
It's still not perfect.
Woods lunged at one tee shot on the 16th hole at East Lake in the opening round, scolding himself when it sailed to the right.
'Tiger Woods!' he said through clenched teeth. 'Trust you swing.'
Haney believes that trust was evident at Oakmont in the third round of the U.S. Open, when Woods hammered a driver down the middle of the fairway on his way to perhaps his best ball-striking round of the year. He hit 17 greens in regulation that day.
'I know what that hole feels like to him. It's really tight,' Haney said. 'On the practice tee, he said, 'I'm driving the ball in the fairway.' And he piped it right down the middle, then did the same thing on Sunday. I felt that was big turning point in his confidence.'
Woods didn't see it that way.
In his eyes, the turning point came at the Western Open last July. He had just missed the cut in a major for the first time, opened with a 72 at Cog Hill, then spent hours that Thursday afternoon on the practice range. It was hard work, but enjoyable.
For the first time since his father died, it was fun.
'I got over all the things that happened earlier, and I finally got back to just playing golf again,' he said. 'That mourning period ... I felt I was done with it. Once I got back to playing golf, I felt I was back in my rhythm again. And from then, if you look at my results since then, it's been pretty good.'
No one ever thought that 2000 season could ever be topped, and it probably remains the benchmark. Woods won nine times in 20 starts, including three straight majors, and three victories of at least eight shots. But his highest winning percentage was last year (8-of-15), and his adjusted scoring average is the same as it was in 2000.
Instead of looking back, consider the future.
What if he still hasn't hit his prime?
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: On 59 watch, Sneds dunks approach for eagle
Brandt Snedeker was having a good day in Round 1 of the Wyndham Championship. And then he reached the green a the par-4 sixth at Sedgefield Country Club and his day got even better.
Snedeker holed a 7-iron from 176 yards, on the fly, for an eagle-2. Playing his 15th hole of the day, Snedeker vaulted to 9 under par for the tournament.
With Sedgefield being a par 70, Snedeker needed two birdies over his final three holes to shoot 59 and he got one of them at the par-3 seventh, where he hit his tee shot on the 224-yard hole to 2 feet.
Snedeker actually had 58 in his crosshairs, but missed an 8-foot slider for birdie at the par-4 eighth.
Rosaforte Report: A tale of two comebacks
Comeback (noun): A return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.
Even by definition, the word comeback is subjective.
There is no question that Brooks Koepka has completed his comeback. With two major championship victories that encompassed wins over Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, Player of the Year honors have already been locked up for the 2017-18 season.
But knowing Koepka, he wants more. A No. 1 ranking, topping his boy D.J., is a possibility and a goal. A Ryder Cup is awaiting. By all rights, Koepka could be Comeback Player of the Year and Player of the Year all in one, except the PGA Tour discontinued its Comeback honor in 2012. Even without an official award, it’s fun to compare the cases of Koepka and Woods.
What Woods has recovered from is remarkable, but not complete. He hasn’t won yet. With triumphs in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Koepka has completed his comeback from a pair of wrist injuries that could have been equally as career-ending as the physical issues that Woods had to overcome just to contend in the last two majors.
“There was a question on whether or not I’d ever be the same,” Koepka said Sunday night in the media center at Bellerive, following his third major championship victory in six tries. “Whether I could do it pain-free, we had no idea.”
The wrist traumas occured five months apart, with the initial issue, which occured at the Hero World Challenge in December (in which he finished last in the limited field), putting him in a soft cast with a partially torn tendon. That cost the reigning U.S. Open champion 15 weeks on the shelf (and couch), including a start in the Masters.
His treatment included injecting bone marrow and platelet-rich plasma. When he returned at the Zurich Classic in April, Koepka revealed the ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone – thus a dislocation – and that every time he went to his doctor, “it seemed like it got worse and worse.”
Koepka’s second wrist injury of the season occurred on the practice grounds at The Players, when a cart pulled in front of Koepka just as he was accelerating into the ball with his 120-plus mph club-head speed. Abruptly stopping his swing, Koepka’s left wrist popped out. His physio relayed a story to PGA Tour radio in which he advised Koepka before he reset the wrist: “Sit on your hand and bite this towel, otherwise you’re going to punch me.”
Koepka admitted that he never dreamed such a scenario would threaten his career. He called it, “probably the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through, setting that bone back.” But, testament to Koepka's fortitude, four days later he made an albatross and tied a TPC Sawgrass course record, shooting 63.
Woods’ physical – and mental – recovery from back surgery and prescription drug abuse was painful and career threatening in its own way. As he said in his return to Augusta, “Those are some really, really dark times. I’m a walking miracle.”
As amazing as it has been, Woods, by definition, still hasn’t fully completed his comeback. While he’s threatened four times in 2018, he hasn’t won a tournament.
Yes, it’s a miracle that he’s gotten this far, swinging the club that fast, without any relapse in his back. As electric and high-energy as his second-place finish to Koepka was at the PGA, Woods has made this winning moment something to anticipate. As story lines go, it may be better this way.
Coming off a flat weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone, Woods was starting to sound like an old 42-year-old. But instead of ice baths and recovery time, the conversation was charged by what he did on Saturday and Sunday in the 100th PGA.
A day later, there was more good news. With Woods committing to three straight weeks of FedExCup Playoff golf, potentially followed by a week off and then the Tour Championship, that moment of victory may not be far away.
Scheduling – and certainly anticipating – four tournaments in five weeks, potentially followed by a playing role at the Ryder Cup, would indicate that Woods has returned to the activity in which he was formally successful.
There were times post-scandal and post-back issues, that Woods stuck by the lines made famous by LL Cool J:
Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers
Not this time. As he said Sunday before his walk-off 64 in St, Louis, “Oh, God. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again.”
Actor/Comedian Kevin Nealon Joins "Feherty," Monday, Aug. 20 at 9 p.m. ET
Actor/comedian Kevin Nealon (Saturday Night Live) will join David Feherty on his self-titled, Emmy-nominated series Feherty presented by Farmers Insurance®, Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel.
Filmed at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles last month, the episode will focus on numerous topics, including:
- Nealon discussing his start in comedy in Los Angeles, where he worked as a bartender and filled in for comics who failed to show up for their act.
- Reminiscing about his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1984.
- Reflecting on his nine-year run as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.
- Recounting the time when his golf ball struck Adam Sandler during a round they were playing with filming Happy Gilmore.
- Recalling time spent with Arnold Palmer during the filming of a commercial a few years ago.
The following Monday (Aug. 27), Feherty will be joined by 20-time LPGA Tour winner Cristie Kerr at 9 p.m. ET, and then on Monday, Sept. 3 (9 p.m. ET), major champion Jimmy Walker will join as a guest for the series’ season finale.
A two-time Emmy-nominated host (Outstanding Sports Personality – Studio Host) Feherty has been described as “golf’s iconoclast,” by Rolling Stone, and “the last unscripted man on TV,” by Men’s Journal. His all-star lineup of golf-enthused and culturally relevant guests feature celebrities from across entertainment, sports and politics. To date, Feherty has sat down with four U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump); sports legends Charles Barkley, Nick Saban, Stephen Curry and Bobby Knight; Hollywood icons Matthew McConaughey, Larry David and Samuel L. Jackson; World Golf of Fame members Nancy Lopez, Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson; and a host of current golf superstars including Paula Creamer, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Michelle Wie. Feherty is produced by Golf Channel’s original productions group, which also oversees production for Driver vs. Driver, Golf Films as well as the network’s instruction platforms.
Thomas talks Tiger, plays 'Facebreakers' on 'Tonight Show'
Justin Thomas didn't successfully defend his title at last week's PGA Championship, but he did get a guest spot on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."
Thomas appeared on the talk show Wednesday night and, of course, a primary topic was Tiger Woods' run at the Wanamaker Trophy.
Thomas also played a game of "Facebreakers" with host Fallon, in which both men tried to break panes of glass emblazoned with the other's face with golf shots. Thomas nearly took out the real Fallon on his first shot, and after several uncessful attempts by both men, massive cheating ensued.