It was as common a sight as we have come to see on a Sunday in March. Tiger in red. Tiger in the final group stalking his prey. Tiger sinking every critical putt he needed. Tiger celebrating on the 72nd hole. At Bay Hill in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Tiger Woods announced his official return (to form) to golf. Or did he?
Certainly it was a big step for Tiger, his first win in nearly 10 months since recovering from knee surgery and his sixth title at Bay Hill in his career, 66th tour victory in total. But then again it did come at Bay Hill where he has dominated just like he has at Torrey Pines. Bay Hill is in Tiger’s literal backyard. He lives about 10 miles away from the course and plays it in the offseason regularly. Course familiarity makes a huge difference.
Let’s also not forget who he was playing against this weekend. The Arnold Palmer Invitational featured an abbreviated and limited field with just three of Golf’s top ten players. Names like Phil Mickelson (perhaps playing the hottest), Sergio Garcia, Geoff Ogilvy (current FedEx Cup No. 1) and Camillo Villegas were absent from the field’s pairings.
Also not there were Ernie Els, Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk, Boo Weekly, JB Holmes, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.
No, instead Tiger beat a field that contained a struggling Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington, Zach Johnson, Sean O’Hair and Nick Watney. Not shabby but also not elite.
So while the red shirts, the impressive Sunday comebacks, the stalking of opponents, and the sinking of seemingly every putt appear to have made their complete return, let’s wait until he does it against a full field at a course that isn’t in his backyard before we lose control and start groveling at the Tiger Woods statue once again. Because quite frankly, there are some other golfers out there right now — Ogilvy, Mickelson and Harrington (who has won the past two majors by the way, lets not forget that) — who are playing very well.