It feels as if Tiger Woods frequently had been on his way back to major form since his last Grand Slam win, at the 2008 U.S. Open, but it may have never felt like he was truly close to getting there until the 2018 Tour Championship.
With his win at East Lake Golf Club to close out the season, Tiger felt it may have been the moment when he could seriously think about a return to the top.
“It proved to me that I could win again,” Woods told a press conference Tuesday at August National, ahead of the 2019 Masters, the year’s first major. “I was close at times, I was close at Tampa (The Valspar Championship), I was close at The Open Championship, had the lead there, I was making a run at Brooksie (Koepka) at the PGA, just to clean up my rounds, maybe get a break here or there, I was finally hitting it again.”
Woods has had his moments since his last major victory. He won six tournaments in 2009 another five in 2013 and has earned 43 top-10 finishes in the process.
But what he is remembered for might be his near-misses and injuries rather than his achievements.
In 2009 he lost a lead going into the final round of a major for the first time when he fell to Y.E. Yang at the PGA Championship. Then at the final major of the 2018 season he was unable to close in on Koepka. That came after he missed most of 2017 trying to work his way back from injuries. It’s pain he still deals with and he is constantly having to fight off.
That is why East Lake was such a big deal for him. He started well, continued to succeed and closed it out on the final day while feeling healthy in the process.
“I look back upon that week as not only how it culminated with everything on 18, but I led from Day 1 and that’s not easy to do,” Woods said. “And from the struggles I’ve had the last few years, to go out and take the lead on the first day and then end up winning the tournament, leading wire to wire, that made that much more special.”
Now Woods turns his sights on the Masters where he has won four times but not one since 2005. However, in the struggles he has had in recent years, he has been good at Augusta finishing sixth in 2009, fourth in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and 17th in 2015.
While Woods has plenty of wins on every type of course, this could very well be the one to get him that elusive 15th major title, one that he has been waiting more than 10 years to get.
“I would not have foreseen that for sure,” Woods said. “After I won my 14th, I felt like I still had plenty of more major championships that I could win, unfortunately I just didn’t do it, I put myself there with chances on the back nine with various places, I just haven’t won.
“Hopefully I put myself there again.”
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