clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tiger Woods didn’t win but he delivered an unforgettable Sunday at the PGA

From the moment he showed up in the parking lot, Tiger put on a Sunday show that felt from a prior era.

PGA Championship - Final Round Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Tiger Woods did not win the PGA Championship but Sunday’s performance was one of the reasons why we watch sports.

The day had everything, from Tiger providing the amuse-bouche of showing up looking like he was ready to go on a long Navy SEAL ruck to igniting the roars reminiscent of a decade ago with shots we didn’t think we’d ever see again.

It had the late-stage problem of Tiger being unable to keep his driver on the planet. It had the ballstriking that’s made this 2018 comeback more competitive than anyone could have imagined. And it had the scrambling — the ability to get the most out of day when you do not have it — that, more than any other trait, has made him arguably the greatest golfer who ever lived. It’s why, after starting the championship 3-over through his first two holes, he somehow ended up contending until the final hole on Sunday four sweaty days later.

The entire round was madness from the very first hole. He started the day by putting approach shots inside 10 feet on the first three holes. The one at the par-3 third made a ballmark some six-inches from the cup, just missing an ace but yielding a tap-in birdie that put the pressure on the players behind him right away.

Tiger’s front nine was an incomprehensible, beautiful mess. He did not hit a single fairway! From the fourth tee onward, it was a constant grind to get back into play. At first, his swing was late and the ball was sailing right. Then he overcorrected and starting yanking it left. He nearly pulled one left out-of-bounds at the 9th hole, but fortunately that provided the scene for this recovery shot that was straight out of the year 2000.

The front nine tally simply did not compute:

  • 0 fairways hit
  • only 10 freaking putts
  • 3-under 32 that, at the time, put him one shot out of the lead

Tiger lived under par on the front nine all week, playing it 13-under over four days. But coming into Sunday, the issue had been the second nine, where he’d been 2-over through the first three rounds.

After making the turn, Woods added two more birdies in his first four holes to continue pushing the leaders behind him. This was less a replay of The Open, where he threw shots away. This was more of a Brooks Koepka problem, not a Tiger problem. He poured in a birdie putt at the 13th and raised the putter in a way that gave you serious Jack Nicklaus ‘86 Masters vibes.

The roars probably hit full volume at the 15th, where he nearly jarred it for the second time on the day. At that point, no matter how it finished, the day was going to memorable and special.

Tiger had us thinking about an ‘86 Masters redux and the crowds and Twitter were in a frenzy.

Koepka did not play the ‘86 Masters but if he had, I’m pretty sure he would have heard the roars ahead for Nicklaus and shot 31 on the inward nine to beat him by four shots. Koepka seems to be a machine. When Tiger got within a shot with that birdie above, Koepka posted red numbers at the 15th and 16th to ice the entire championship, regardless of what Tiger did.

What Tiger did, however, was blow one right again with the driver and almost have to take a penalty from a hazard at the 17th hole. Instead, the result was a disappointing par at the last best birdie chance, a par-5, that probably erased his last grasp chance at a 15th major. The wild driver, the hallmark of his late-stage troubles, had bitten him at the 17th.

To add to the unforgettable Sunday, Tiger decided to post one more birdie on the home hole and light up the crowd one more time. The Sunday 64 is something from a prior era. It’s a number that any other player not named Tiger Woods cannot shoot given what he had on Sunday. He missed every fairway on the front nine but still had us feeling he’d win a major just a year after we assumed he’d never play again. It’s not a win, but just like The Open, the day was not without reward.