Wednesday 29 March 2017

Tiger moves ominously back into gear

Oliver Brown

It was not quite the coronation his play had promised, but Tiger Woods delivered the most compelling evidence yet of a comeback yesterday.

With a luminous final-round 67, golf's fallen idol sealed third place at the Australian Open: his best finish in an official event for two years. But for his errant putting, his restoration to the winners' club would have been assured.

His role at the closing ceremony in Sydney, where he received the equivalent of the bronze medal, felt a touch peculiar. And yet the game was galvanised by the spectacle of Woods receiving honours of any kind.

The last time he had featured in the top three in a sanctioned tournament was at the Australian Masters in 2009 -- when he had held off Greg Chalmers, the very man who thwarted him yesterday.

Chalmers, the Australian clutching his second national championship title, was a model of composure in resisting the late charge by Woods, as well as a 50-foot birdie putt by John Senden that could have forced a play-off.

But it was Woods, fashioning a superb birdie at the 12th before chipping in for an eagle at the 14th, who detonated the loudest roars around the course. Finishing at 11-under, he also helped justify his controversial selection for this week's Presidents Cup.

"I felt great," Woods said. "It's nice finally to be healthy again."

The prospect of a renewed Woods in a match-play duel is mouthwatering. At the most recent Presidents Cup in San Francisco, he won all five of his matches, and in his last Ryder Cup appearance he was nine-under for 15 holes in singles.

According to Joe LaCava, his new caddie, the rejuvenation is all but complete.

"He hit the ball great this week, his iron play was phenomenal," said LaCava, who gave up a lucrative job on the bag for Dustin Johnson, the world No 5, to answer Woods' call.

"I'm pretty pumped about that. It was solid as I've seen the guy hit it."

Woods agreed, scarcely caring less about the fact that he had been beaten by two relative journeymen in Chalmers and Senden. "I pretty much hit it on a string," he claimed, having found 75pc of greens in regulation. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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