PALM HARBOR, Fla. – While this latest comeback remains in its fledgling stage, Tiger Woods is sending the masses down memory lane with his play at the Valspar Championship – including caddie Joe LaCava.
LaCava has looped for Woods since 2011, meaning that he has been around for a five-win season (2013) along with plenty of low points. But after helping Woods to a 4-under 67 in the third round to leave his man one shot off the lead in his tournament debut, LaCava sees signs of a time when Woods was still the dominant force on the PGA Tour.
“You feel like you’re back to ’12 and ’13, back in the good old days, for sure,” LaCava said. “You get pumped up and you get excited, so it’s good.”
Woods dropped only one shot in his third trip around the Copperhead Course, and now shares second place alongside Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker, one shot behind Corey Conners. LaCava pointed to shots like a cut 3-wood off the tee at the treacherous 16th hole and a towering drive on the 14th hole, where Woods’ clubhead speed eclipsed 129 mph, as signs of continued progress.
“I’m starting to see him get into a pretty good groove out there and hit the shots that he’s trying to hit, and hit them both ways,” LaCava said. “Just shots that he’s kind of trying to hit, and he’s pulling them off.”
Woods remains in search of his first win since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and he is on the verge of two straight strong results after a 12th-place showing at the Honda Classic. LaCava believes that, regardless of the final-round result, the last-minute decision to add Valspar to the schedule was a “big step” in Woods’ comeback and he is “not surprised” to see his player within reach of an 80th career title.
“You don’t want to get carried away with one tournament, but you could see signs of him playing well and hitting it better,” LaCava said. “It’s been one good tournament at the Honda, decent showing in San Diego and now three good rounds here. He’s hitting a lot of good shots.”