The Tiger Woods Train (Motto: "It's a process.") rolls on, and on Monday finished up its Torrey Pines stop with an almost thoroughly dominating win in the Farmers Insurance Open.
This was one strange tournament, with almost all of Saturday lost to fog and Sunday a jumbled mess of simultaneous third- and fourth-round play. Tournament organizers and CBS started the tournament several hours later on Monday with the intention of giving the country some good Woods afternoon golf, but many CBS affiliates around the country opted for syndicated reruns of "Ellen" or other shows. And absurdly slow play made an already overextended tournament feel even longer.
Not that Woods fans would mind. This was one of his more impressive performances of recent vintage, as he carded 68-65 in the opening two rounds, finished the fog-delayed third with a 69 and closed out the final round with an even-par 72. That was enough to hold off Brandt Snedeker, who played the final day at -3 but couldn't come close to cutting into Woods' seven-shot lead.
Woods did his level best to make it interesting toward the end: After extending his lead to eight strokes, he went bogey-double bogey on 14 and 15, with another bogey on 17. He splayed tee shots on 9 and 15, and for a moment looked like the Tiger of 2010, not the Tiger of 2001. (To be fair, Woods also had his rhythm disrupted by the agonizingly slow play of Steve Marino, Brad Fritsch and Erik Compton, among others, who by the end of the tournament were more than one full hole behind the rest of the field.)
But with a tap-in par at 16, all was right with the world. Last year, Kyle Stanley came to the 18th with a three-shot lead and utterly gagged, eventually losing to Snedeker in a playoff. Woods would have no such meltdown here.
In many ways, this was an ideal tournament for Woods. Many of the game's other top players were not in attendance, thinning the field somewhat. And Torrey Pines now ranks as the most favorable course in golf for Woods: He's won eight times there, with another seven wins each at Bay Hill and Firestone.
Plus, there's reason for optimism going forward. Woods has never won at Augusta in a year in which he hasn't won a tournament beforehand. And Woods' putting stroke and driver (at least until late Monday) looked on par with the best in golf today, if not comparable to the Woods of yore.
Woods remains one of the best players in golf, and at the moment, that's more than enough. He'll never again ascend the heights he hit earlier in his career, but who could? He's shown with a (mostly) consistent performance in inconsistent conditions that he's recaptured enough of his game to compete with anyone, anytime.
And with Perkins waitress/hydrant jokes now as dated as Austin Powers imitations, Woods is primed to enter the next phase of his career with a legitimate chance to write a definitive new chapter to his autobiography. As impossible as it seemed this time last year, Woods should win at least one Major, and likely more, before he's done.
As for Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 Majors? Let's let him get to 15 or 16 before we start that talk again. For now, it's time to just enjoy one of the best in golf's history playing the way he ought to once again.
Jay Busbee, Devil Ball Golf - follow on Twitter @jaybusbee
- Sports & Recreation