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Tiger Woods on Sunday scored his first tournament title in two years, since a Thanksgiving night car accident led to the revelation of extramarital affairs and his subsequent divorce from Elin Nordegren.
The golf pro won the Chevron World Challenge, making a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole to defeat 2007 Master champion Zach Johnson by one stroke.
Many in the media were quick to point out that the tournament is not a regular PGA tour event; in fact, it was established to benefit Woods’ charities, and he serves as the host.
Moreover, there were only 18 players in the tournament, which took place at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. It marks Woods’ fifth time winning the tournament.
But Jim Peltz of the Los Angeles Times suggested that none of that matters.
“His progress toward becoming the Tiger Woods of old, the one who won 71 PGA Tour tournaments — including 14 majors — was impeded by knee and Achilles’ tendon injuries and the struggles of adapting to a new swing,” he wrote. “Once the perennial No. 1-ranked player, Woods had dropped to 52nd in the world rankings. In recent weeks, though, Woods’ play and confidence steadily had improved, and now he has a win to validate the effort.”
USA Today’s Steve DiMeglio echoed that sentiment.
“The field was far from full — but it did feature an elite cast of 18 of the world’s best players,” he wrote. “The tournament was not official — but it did come with world ranking points. And to Tiger Woods, a win is a win is a win. To his rivals, it’s also a signal Woods is rounding into — some said reached — his pre-scandal old form.”
Reuters’ Mark Lamport-Stokes agreed.
“While some will argue that Tiger Woods’ long-awaited return to the winner’s circle on Sunday came in an unofficial 18-man event with the odds stacked in his favor, there is no doubt the former world No. 1 is back to form,” he wrote. “In throwing off much of the old for the new, it would now seem that the old Tiger is back — or at least a new and perhaps an improved version.”
On the other hand, Forbes‘ Kurt Badenhausen doesn’t place nearly as much significance on this win.
“The win is a step in the right direction, but Sunday was hardly the final round of the U.S. Open,” he wrote.
But he added that “it seemed like old times with Woods in his Sunday red shirt and fist pumping on the 17th hole after a birdie.”
Washington Post’s Cindy Boren also noted that the “fist pump” is back and that the win is a good start in the right direction.
“You remember Tiger Woods on Sundays? Red shirt, jackwagons in the gallery yelling ‘get in the hole’ with every swing, the grin, the victorious fist pump?” she wrote. “That guy and that scene — missing since the 2009 Australian Masters — were back today.”
She added that the win, which bumps Woods from No. 52 in the world rankings to No. 21, is “still a far cry from the No. 1 spot he’s so accustomed to, but he’ll take it. At least he has something to build on.”
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