Tiger returns on the big stage
AT LAST Tiger Woods holed a putt to win a title. And even though this was the Presidents Cup and the glory was not only his but also that of his team, the look in his eyes showed how much this meant to him.
Despite winning just two of his games in the Royal Melbourne match between the US and the Internationals, Woods had every right to feel chuffed with his 4&3 singles victory over the Australian Aaron Baddeley. As the home side staged a fightback, Woods found himself in the spotlight and his new swing coped with the pressure. His point meant the Americans retained their trophy and at the same time went some way towards vindicating Fred Couples.
The visiting captain was criticised for selecting the former world No 1 and even in defeat Greg Norman, the International captain, refused to be gracious over the controversial wild card. "I still probably would have gone for Keegan Bradley because he won the USPGA," said Norman, who said beforehand that Woods was undeserving of the pick.
Woods, as is his way, was not about to let that pass without a little dig. "I'm thankful Fred picked me," said Woods. "Greg is probably not happy about it after I closed out the Cup today... I'm thankful that Freddie believed in me to be a part of this team."
Regardless of the finale in the 19-15 triumph - the sixth time the US have won in the last seven stagings of this Ryder Cup spin-off - Woods was not the hero of the team: Jim Furyk matched Woods' feat of two years ago in winning all five of his matches. It just seemed that way as Woods hugged Couples on the 15th green. "I felt like I was picking the greatest player I've ever seen play," said Couples. "Today he played like the Tiger of old."
While the hyperbole was obvious, Woods can indeed feel optimistic as he prepares for his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge in California, in a fortnight. In his fourballs defeat on Saturday afternoon he hit 17 out of 18 greens in treacherous conditions, while against Baddeley he posed six birdies and one bogey in 15 holes. This came on the back of his third position in last week's Australian Open, which raised hopes of a first individual win in two years.
"I'm very pleased with the progress I've made with Sean [Foley, his coach] and it's finally paying off under pressure," said Woods. "It held up nicely last week and it held up nicely this week." His putting was not good on Thursday and Friday, however, and many will not believe he is returning to anywhere near his best until they start dropping with the old regularity. Woods is outside the world's top 50 and still has much to do.
In other golf news, Joost Luiten claimed a maiden European Tour title with a one-shot victory from Daniel Chopra at the rain-reduced Iskandar Johor Open yesterday. The Dutchman compiled a six-under-par 65 to move to 15 under and overhaul the Swede in the 54-hole event. Ireland's Padraig Harrington, England's James Morrison and Wales' Rhys Davies tied for third.