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BOB WEST ON GOLF: Tiger’s comeback lauded by locals, lovers of golf

To those in a distinct minority who for years have groused about PGA Tour telecasts spending too much time zeroed in on Tiger Woods, who have reveled in his fall from grace and who thought they would never have to deal with the hype from him winning again, it might be time to focus on another sport.

By impressively finishing off what is arguably the greatest comeback in sports history at the PGA Tour Championship, Tiger left little doubt he’s going to be front and center for years to come. Provided he can stay healthy, it is not a reach to project he will again reach No. 1 in the world.

From being No. 1,199 to start 2018, he’s soared to No. 13 and notched his 80th victory. What was unthinkable, improbable and just sheer lunacy to suggest this time last year, has become stunning reality. Anybody who loves the game of golf, and what Tiger means to it, should be jumping for joy.

Brandt Snedeker, one of the many successful current players who grew up watching Tiger, put it in perspective with a twitter message that crawled across the screen during the Golf Channel’s post-round special Sunday in Atlanta.

“I saw it coming first hand at Tampa [in March],” said Snedeker. “He’s been back for a while. It was awesome to watch him walk up the 18th hole. I thank you Tiger. My family thanks you. Every PGA Tour player thanks you. We look forward to No. 81.”

Speaking of the walk up the 18th hole, I’ve been watching and writing about golf for over half a century and have never witnessed anything like the scene that unfolded. Hundreds of spectators in a throng of thousands broke through the gallery ropes and swarmed around Woods as he walked down the fairway.

By the time he’d chipped out of a greenside bunker to within 6 feet, assuring the victory, chants of “Tiger, Tiger, Tiger” became a thunderous roar. Then, in acknowledgement of the upcoming Ryder Cup, it became “USA, USA, USA.” Lots of folks got chill bumps.

Woods was clearly overwhelmed.

Years from now, when the final chapter on Tiger’s career is being written, that scene will be shown over and over, and many who saw it will remember where they were. Among those who do will probably be yet another generation of young golfers turned on to the game because of Tiger magic.

Meanwhile, many miles away from Atlanta in Austin and Houston, a pair of Southeast Texas professional golfers who grew up idolizing Tiger were celebrating like so many of his fans.

“It felt like old times sitting on the couch on Sunday with family and friends watching him win,” said Andrew Landry. “It is so great I got to witness his comeback. I truly believe he will be winning a lot more. He is healthy and confident.

“He was the best player in the world for the longest time, so he knows what
it takes to get there. He figured out how to win again, so I look to see something impressive over the next few years. I do believe he will break every record, including the one for most majors.”

Chris Stroud was just as elated as Landry.

“Tiger was already the greatest golfer I’ve ever seen,” Stroud said. “To be able to go through personal issues, knee issues, back issues, etc., and still persevere to return to the winner’s circle in the fashion that he did quite possibly could be one of the greatest comebacks of all time.

“It’s up there with Ben Hogan after his car crash and Rudy at Notre Dame. That’s the level of comeback this is.”

Accolades for Woods have poured in from far and wide, many of them from writers and critics who totally wrote him off, who labeled him a ceremonial golfer, who suggested he needed to get out of the way and let the spotlight shine on a star-studded younger generation.

Testimony to the magnitude of his accomplishment could be gleaned by the scores of newspapers across America who played Tiger on their front page Monday morning. More validation came from NBC’s Sunday TV rating, going against the NFL, that was up 206 percent from 2018. Minutes streamed were up 561 percent.

Ripples were heard all the way to Las Vegas, where Woods was quickly elevated to the favorite’s role in next April’s Masters at 9-1. Behind him at 10-1 is Jordan Spieth, followed by Dustin Johnson (12-1), Justin Thomas (14-1), Rory McIlroy (14-1) and Brooks Kopeka (14-1).

It’s the Tiger effect back in full force, and it sets up 2019 as a year when more eyeballs are likely to be on the game of golf than any time in its history.

CHIP SHOTS

One of the newcomers to the area’s charity golf tournament scene has become somewhat of an overnight success. A year ago, after getting somewhat of a late start, the Tee-Off for the YMCA scramble attracted only 10 teams at Bayou Din.

With Valero as the title sponsor, and a move to Babe Zaharias, the second annual YMCA Tourney is already sold out for its Oct. 19 event with 30 teams. Props to the YMCA’s Bud Oliver for his efforts.

Proceeds go to the YMCA scholarship fund . . .

The 23rd annual playing of the Joe Williamson Memorial Golf Tournament is set for Saturday at Babe Zaharias and there are still openings for the two-person scramble. Entry fee is $50 per player, with teams flighted by the lowest handicap.

Covered by the $50 is golf, cart and food and drinks on the course. All proceeds benefit scholarship funds at Nederland and Port Neches-Groves high schools.

Call Wendell Meaux at 790-8873 or the Zaharias golf shop at 722-8286 for more information …

Rain and wet grounds once again limited the senior games played at Babe Zaharias. In the Friday Senior 2-ball, the team of James Shipley, Gary Fontenot and Pete Reobroi won the front with minus 5. On the back, minus-3 won for the team of Keith Mullins, Bim Morrow and Cole Lee …

The Thursday Senior game was played in a 6-6-6 format, with the duo of Fontenot-Ed Holly winning with a 71. Tied for second at 72 were the teams of Joe Gongora-Larry Johnson and Fontenot-Bill Hanley.

Closest to the pin winners were Keith Marshall (No. 7) and Earl Richard (No. 12).


Golf news should be emailed to rdwest@usa.net