Tiger doesn’t win, but his play was memorable

by Gary Shelton on March 12, 2018 · 1 comment

in general

Tiger competed until his next-to-last shot./CARMEN MANDATO

Tiger competed until his next-to-last shot./CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 4 a.m.

Tiger ended in a tie for second./CARMEN MANDATO

Tiger ended in a tie for second./CARMEN MANDATO

He didn't win. For some, that may  be the entire story of this year's Valspar Championship.

But, for the first time in an eternity, Woods was in, right down to his next-to-last shot. Imagine Joe Montana throwing one more touchdown pass. Imagine Michael Phelps winning one last swim meet.  Imagine Michael Jordan hitting one last jump shot.

That's the feeling that Woods gave to Tampa Bay this year. He mattered. Again. He was essential. Again. He was a star. Again.

He didn't win. But Woods accomplished almost everything else.

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Casey shot a final-day 65 to win Valspar./CARMEN MANDATO

Casey shot a final-day 65 to win Valspar./CARMEN MANDATO

When have sports been better than they were this weekend at the Valspar? When has there been an athlete with as much star power? When has there been a story as compelling as his comeback from scars and scandal?

Woods lacked the magic he had in his third round. He shot a 70; 15 golfers did better. Paul Casey shot a 65 on the final day to win the Valspar, his second championship. But while the tournament belonged to Casey, the weekend belong to Woods. When he birdied the 17th, giving himself a chance on his final hole, the noise sounded as if he were on the verge of winning another Masters or another British Open.

 But on the 18th hole, his 40-foot putt stopped just short, and it was over. This wouldn't be remembered as one of his famous charges. But it was close enough to tickle your memories.

Patrick Reed shot a final-round 68 to get into a tie for second./CARMEN MANDATO

Patrick Reed shot a final-round 68 to get into a tie for second./CARMEN MANDATO

"I didn't feel that sharp with my iron game," Woods said. "I played very conservatively into the greens because I wasn't as sharp as I was yesterday and just tried to hopefully get a couple good numbers and fire at a few flags. I kept getting the half club, just one of those days I couldn't quite get the full club."

Overall, Woods was analytical about his play. He still hasn't played that much competitive golf since his back surgeries.

Think about it. Woods is a rebuilt golfer, one with new knees and a knew back and limited ability to twist. He is 42. But he spent this weekend turning back the clock, making himself matter to a Tampa Bay Area that has been waiting to see his resurrection.

"I was close," Woods said. "I had a chance today. Unfortunately I just didn't quite feel as sharp as I needed to with my irons, played a little conservative because of it. I just needed to handle the par-5s a little better. Missed a short one there on 4 for par. Should have two-putted 14. I know that was a long putt but I was trying to leave it below the hole. I overdid it. I missed it."

Connors fell to a final-round score of 77./CARMEN MANDATO

Conners fell to a final-round score of 77./CARMEN MANDATO

Casey shot a 71 on Saturday, but he shaved a half-dozen strokes off of that.

"It means a lot," Casey said. "It's been too long. It's very satisfying. Probably more satisfying the fact that it was on a week where Tiger played some good golf and got to see some amazing stuff and hear the roars and it just was a great week, the buzz, everything about it, the course. I loved it. I played great. I couldn't be happier. Really a flawless week from start to finish, with some errors."

Casey admitted he has had self-doubts in recent years.

"I'd be lying to you if I said there wasn't," Casey said. "I very much the last couple of years I've been very much at peace with it, having, you know,

Rory Sabbatini finished in a tie for fifth./CARMEN MANDATO

Rory Sabbatini finished in a tie for fifth./CARMEN MANDATO

great times on the golf course and bad times on the golf course. I've reached a very good place in my life where I've got a wife and kids and life is very, very good. I'm content with the life I have that I built. Obviously massive part of that is playing golf, it's what I love to do. It would be a big piece missing if I wasn't to continue to play great golf and maybe win golf events."

Corey Conners, who led the first three rounds, slumped to a 77 and finished tied for 16th.

"I didn't get the putts to fall," Conners said. "I felt like I hit some pretty good shots. Was definitely more nervous out there today as I was expecting. But, yeah, came  up short on a number of putts, couldn't get the speed down. Few of those would have fallen might have relaxed me a little bit more but, yeah, kind of battled all day and couple mistakes. It was fun out there. Justin was a great playing partner and supportive. Lot of Canadian fans as well, which is awesome."

Casey cradles the championship trophy./CARMEN MANDATO

Casey cradles the championship trophy./CARMEN MANDAT0

Woods now has back-to-back strong finishes in the Honda and the Valspar. Could a nice finish await him in the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week?

"I'm really looking forward to next week," Woods said. "I hadn't played there in a couple years because of my back and I wanted to play there a couple years ago. We were close to -- knew Arnold was not in very good shape. I wanted to play one last time before he moved on and unfortunately I just couldn't play. So, nice to go back to Orlando. My kids were born there, I've had a lot of success. I used to live there. Good week next week."

Woods didn't figure out his irons on Sunday./CARMEN MANDATO

Woods didn't figure out his irons on Sunday./CARMEN MANDATO

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cecil DeBald March 12, 2018 at 8:42 am

Nice article, Gary. Thanks.

Cecil

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