Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The debate about whether or not Tiger
Woods is "back" has been neverending, and trying to determine and answer
requires a Rosetta stone, knowledge of abstract algebra and a little bit of
It's the calliope of golf debates, and may never end until he wins his next
major, or wins three in a row.
And that's fair, because players like Woods define their careers by great
He earned a big one in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first
title since 2009. But Sunday's win at the Memorial was great for a number of
reasons -- most of all because it was the greatest indicator yet that his form
is returning and it makes him a genuine favorite to win the U.S. Open.
Most will remember that Memorial win for The Chip Shot -- his 50-footer for
birdie at the 16th that got him a share of the lead. And it may be remembered
because at the event hosted by Jack Nicklaus, Woods tied his idol with the
73rd victory of his career.
Those aspects of the victory shouldn't be lost. It was an incredible moment
for Woods' career and an indelible shot.
With the ball about a dozen feet off the green, he faced a downhill lie and
water beyond the hole. Woods needed the birdie and went for it, bouncing the
ball off a ridge at the edge of the green to set up a soft roll into the cup.
Woods unwound an uppercut fist pump -- a once common sight on tour -- and
later called it one of the hardest shots he's pulled off. Nicklaus also spoke
in superlatives about the effort.
But that was just the best shot during an entire round full of good ones, and
that's important to remember. While his win will be remembered for The Chip
Shot, Woods was hitting the ball well all day.
His playing partner, Rickie Fowler, had the pleasure of watching him for all
18 holes and said Woods looked "very in control" of his golf ball Sunday.
That's the biggest substantial difference between Woods' two wins this season.
His Arnold Palmer title was big news, but his game wasn't altogether there.
While he went into the Masters two weeks later as a favorite, he never put
together a stellar round of golf and finished five-over par.
But by all indicators, Woods is hitting all types of shots well.
"I played well on that Sunday (at the Arnold Palmer Invitational), but I just
didn't quite have the control I did today," Woods said Sunday. "That was
different. I'm able to hit the ball, I think, compressing it higher than I did
at Bay Hill. I was comfortable hitting it down, uncomfortable hitting it up.
As I said at Augusta to you guys, I got exposed, wasn't able to get the ball
up in the air comfortably, and it showed. Went to work on it for the next few
weeks, and I finally got it. It came around here when I needed it."
The timing couldn't be better, with the U.S. Open taking place next week.
Woods will carry his renewed form into San Francisco's Olympic Club as a
favorite, especially because some of the other elite players in the game have
Rory McIlroy, the defending U.S. Open champion, has missed the cut at his last
three events and hasn't gone under par since early May.
Phil Mickelson withdrew from the Memorial because of mental fatigue and poor
hitting, while Masters winner Bubba Watson missed the cut. World No. 1 Luke
Donald has won twice this year, but has historically struggled at the U.S.
Open, and Lee Westwood is still in search of his first major title.
The door is wide open for Woods, who could earn his 15th major title at
Olympic and move within three of Nicklaus' all-time mark.
It's by no means a certainty, but Woods should be a favorite, and not because
Tiger is back -- but because his game is.
The Sports Network