By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
Tiger Woods didn’t win the 2018 PGA Championship, but make no mistake about it, he will win again.
And he will do it soon.
Tiger’s second place finish at Bellerive was the strongest sign yet that he is closing in on his return to the top. He shot a six-under 64 on Sunday despite struggling to find consistency from the tee box.
Drive for show, putt for dough, and Tiger did just that, burying eight birdies and finishing two strokes off the championship pace.
Credit to Brooks Koepka, who was a deserving winner and claimed two of the four major titles in 2018, but Tiger stole the show, even in second place.
A little under a year ago, it would have been easy to believe that Tiger would never regain his form to compete on tour again.
He began 2018 as the 656th ranked player in the world. He’s now up to 26.
Just a few months ago it would have seemed ridiculous to suggest that he’d contend for a spot on the Ryder Cup team. It now seems increasingly likely, even probable, that Captain Jim Furyk will tap Tiger to help the U.S. defend its title overseas in September.
Now, after being in the running on Sunday in three of the four major tournaments this year, there’s no doubt about it: Tiger’s back.
Or at least some version of Tiger is back, but that version that is good enough to compete for a major title and eventually win one.
It goes without saying that we will never see the Tiger Woods of the late 90’s and early 2000’s again. The days of him demolishing the field by 15 strokes to claim the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach are over.
But would it really be surprising if Tiger showed up at Pebble Beach and took back the U.S. Open crown next June? Would you be shocked if Tiger picked up another Green Jacket at Augusta in April? He nearly won The Open and PGA Championship this year, what’s to say he can’t win either one in 2019?
If his health holds up, he will win another major. His game has returned, and whether you like Tiger or not, that’s a good thing for golf.
There has been plenty of debate since Tiger’s comeback kicked into full gear in March about whether the sport “needs” its biggest star since Jack and Arnie. I don’t know if the PGA needs Tiger, but golf is sure better with him than without him.
Almost all of the best players in the world are under 30. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have already won multiple majors. Justin Thomas has a PGA Championship under his belt and is likely not done with major tournament victories. Rickie Fowler appears to be getting closer to claiming his first major title. All are exciting players to watch.
Golf can succeed with this new generation of talent, but if golf is going to thrive, it’s going to be because of Tiger. Nobody moves the needle like him.
Just ask Brooks Koepka, who has won three major titles in 14 months. That’s one heck of an accomplishment that nobody is talking about today. Everybody is talking about Tiger.
He’s back, and he won’t be in second for long.
You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.