While Tiger Woods’ private life remains in turmoil, the galleries at Pebble Beach on Saturday afternoon were witness to his spectacular rehabilitation on the golf course. A five under par 66 is his best round since his comeback at the Masters in April.
He started the week moaning about the bumpy greens and being gawped at like a freak at the county fair. But the love retuned with a birdie on the 16th.
And back, too, came his trademark fist pump. When he birdied the 17th, the roar form the packed grandstand around the green would have rivaled any World Cup stadium full of vuvuzelas. Woods raided his right arm aloft with his finger up like an umpire. The body language said: “I’m back and I’m No.1.”
Hysteria was to follow. He cut a 3-wood around the tree in the middle of the 18th fairway, and over the ocean to 20 feet. Three birdies in three holes. That’s what golf fans pay to see. That’s the shot they will be talking about for years. It could well be the shot that propels Woods to his 15th major title.
Indeed as Woods strolled up to the green, he took off his cap and waved as he received a standing ovation. It felt like the walk of the champion on Sunday. Steady on. “There’s a hell of a lot of work still to do,” Woods said after his round. Off the course, yes. On the course, his game is back. His name is back on the leaderboard. And his rivals can see it writ large.
The Tiger fear factor is back. With a bang. Can we say that?