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Tiger Woods Back to the Future at Tour Championship

The reaction of the crowd tells the story or Tiger's return (Photo: Getty Images )
Five years after his last victory on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods has won his 80th PGA Tour title, moved to 13th in the World Ranking after beginning the year worse than 500th and rekindled memories of his heyday with a magnificent two shot win over Billy Horschel at the Tour Championship.

The expected final round challenges from his closest rivals through 54 holes, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, never eventuated and it was left to Horschel to apply whatever pressure he could in today’s final round.

Horchel’s round of 66 saw him finish alone in second position and complete a fine FedEx Cup Playoff Series where he has finished 3rd on two occasions and now runner-up.

For Woods however it is a victory that will be remembered along with many of his greatest triumphs, especially given the back story behind his comeback from the injury and surgery which threatened to bring to a halt one of the greatest careers in the history of the game.

Beginning the day with a three-shot lead over McIlroy, Woods began today's final round with a birdie and although it took twelve more holes before another birdie came his way his nearest challengers were failing to apply any real pressure.

Bogeys at the 15th and 16th holes kept the result in doubt as long as possible but when Woods produced a fine par save from behind the green at the 17th he headed to the 18th with a two shot lead.

His game face was still on until his approach shot from the greenside bunker at the par five 18th finished under 10 feet from the hole allowed a smile to break out and although he was unable to birdie he two putted for par and the two-shot win over Horschel.

Woods has thrown out signals all season that a return to the winner’s circle was perhaps a matter of time more especially his near misses at the Open and PGA Championships.

Despite the confidence that 14 majors and more than 100 titles worldwide have no doubt installed in Woods there must surely have been self-doubts about his capacity to win again but the aforementioned efforts in the majors this year have played their role in providing that belief once again.

 

Today, that growing confidence manifested itself in the form of his third Tour Championship title and for good measure he has finished runner-up in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and that he is now a member of the US Ryder Cup team suggests that Tiger Woods is perhaps in as good a space as he has been in five years – perhaps even longer.

"It's certainly up there with obviously all the major championships I've won, Players, World Golf Championships," said Woods when asked to rate what he had achieved. "But this is under different circumstances."

"You know, I've explained throughout the year that I just didn't know whether -- when this would ever happen again. If I could somehow piece together a golf swing this year, I felt like I could do it. My hands are good enough, and I just didn't know if I could piece together a golf swing. But somehow I've been able to do that, and here we are.

"The people who are close to me saw the struggles and what I was going through, and some of the players that I'm pretty close to, they've really helped throughout this process and the last few years. Their support and some of those things that they said coming off that last green meant a lot to me."

In scenes reminiscent of the Open Championship huge crowds were allowed to walk behind the final group to herald the return of Woods to his winning ways and, after, Woods would acknowledge just how much the warmth of the crowd would mean to him. 

Those crowds have been rewarded by witnessing a moment that will become one of the most memorable in tournament golf but Tiger too has also been rewarded for his greater engagement with the media and the public and he is reaping the benefits of embracing his position in the game perhaps more than ever.

Justin Rose edged out Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Horschel in a tight race for the US$10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup, a birdie at his final hole enough for the world number one to hold on in what was a tense final hour or so despite the Englishman's disappointing last round of 73.

Johnson finished third in this week's event while Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson and Rose tied for 4th.

The Australians were led by Jason Day who finished in 18th place, Cameron Smith was 20th and Marc Leishman 21st. 

RULES REPAIRING DAMAGE ON THE GREEN

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