• 72°

BOB WEST ON GOLF — Tiger’s 82nd win proves you can’t write him off

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Tiger Woods can’t be trusted when it comes to fading quietly into the sunset. In case you missed it, and a lot of people did because of time and place this past weekend, Tiger came roaring out of the doomsayer dungeon to score a third remarkable victory in 13 months.

Idle for nine weeks due to a fifth knee surgery, he returned for the inaugural Zozo Classic in Japan to seemingly start knocking off the rust of another long, injury-forced layoff. He began by playing possum — three consecutive bogeys to start day one — then stalked the next weather-interrupted 69 holes in 22 under.

That was good enough to beat Japanese favorite Hideki Matsuyama by three strokes. All the while, people in the know looked on in disbelief. Since his dramatic victory in the Masters, Tiger had struggled to make cuts and was a total non-factor. Unbeknownst to the masses, a damaged knee was the culprit.

The significance of a championship even more unlikely than what happened at the Masters was its place in golf history. It was PGA Tour win No. 82 for Tiger, tying him with Sam Snead for No. 1 on the all-time list. Given his woes of the past summer and fall, there was considerable doubt he’d get to 82.

Not only was the victory stunning to the golf world, the ease with which he pulled it off was jaw dropping even for Tiger. He opened with back-to-back 64s, withstood typhoon rains that delayed play roughly 36 hours, then came back with rounds of 66-67 to hold off Matsuyama. A wire-to-wire masterpiece.

Adding credibility to No. 82 was the fact it was accomplished against an elite field stacked with the likes of Rory McIlroy, defending U.S. Open champ Gary Woodland, Xander Schaffuele, Matsuyama and many others with high world rankings. A first place check of $1.75 million tends to reel in the best.

Woods was hardly the only winner. The game of golf always receives a monumental boost in interest whenever Tiger hoists a trophy. Beyond that, having Tiger win Japan’s first ever PGA Tour event was a godsend in the already golf-crazed country. Even with Matsuyama contending, Tiger was the main attraction.

The list of those on the winner list also figures to include my longtime Texas golf writer friend Curt Sampson. Curt signed to do a book on Tiger’s comeback after his dramatic Masters victory and the publisher wanted it post haste.

Faced with an imposing deadline, he made a relentless commitment to a complex project that also includes material on Babe Zaharias’ comeback from cancer. In an amazing stroke of good fortune and timing, “Roaring Back: The Fall and Rise of Tiger Woods” was released on Tuesday.

It’s Curt’s second book on Woods, following “Chasing Tiger” in 2002. The best Texas golf writer this side of Dan Jenkins, he’s authored a total of 17 books. Included was the New York Times bestseller “Hogan,” two excellent works on the Masters, and a great read on the combustible 1991 Ryder Cup “War by The Shore, The Incomparable Drama of 1991.”

Meanwhile, check out what a couple of Tiger’s peers had to say about his latest iteration.

Woodland, who played the final 36 holes with him in Japan, said, “The ball striking exhibition I’ve seen the last two days is a joke. Eighty-two is pretty special. I don’t see him stopping any time soon.”

“It’s amazing what he keeps doing with comebacks – the Tour Championship, the Masters, here in Japan – it’s incredible,” said McIlroy. “He does things people can’t comprehend and no one can really understand other than himself. He thinks and dreams of things that other people don’t think are possible.”

And, of course, conscious that his record of 18 majors is somewhat back in play, Jack Nicklaus weighed in.

“I’m incredibly happy for Tiger – and for the game of golf – on his 82nd PGA Tour win,” Nicklaus said. “It’s obvious the knee surgery and the hard work Tiger put in resulted in quality golf. He put it well when he said his body doesn’t allow him to do what he once did, but he can still think his way around a golf course.”

Among the highest praise came from Tiger’s longtime Golf Channel critic Brandel Chamblee. In the process of gushing over No.82, Chamblee said he thought Tiger’s golf swing looked the best and most effortless he’s ever seen it.

It sounds, then, like Tiger could very well take golf to a new level of popularity in 2020. Provided no other parts of his body break down and force yet another comeback.

CHIP SHOTS

Braden Bailey has ground to make up in his bid to advance through the second stage of a Korn Ferry Tour qualifier and reach the tour’s Q school Dec. 12-15 in Florida.

Bailey, after his tee time was delayed nearly three hours by inclement weather Wednesday, was even par through 27 holes at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney. He’d fired an opening one-under-par 71 on Tuesday, then shot a one-over 37 on his first nine Wednesday afternoon.

The Port Neches-Groves ex was tied for 40th at that point. The top 20 and ties after 72 holes advance to Q school. Bailey was T33 after Tuesday’s round. He teed off Wednesday with the temperature hovering near 45 and wind blowing 20 mph out of the north. Play is due to conclude Friday…

In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias, the team of Tony Trevino, Bill Hammond, Adam Noel and Dwayne Benoit won the front with minus-4. On the back, there was a tie at plus 1 between the team of Keith Mullins, Bill Hanley, Larry Foster and Jeff Rinehart, and the foursome of Mike Brown, Butch Cross, Charlie Perez and James Trahan.

The Wednesday Zaharias DogFight was won with 14 points by the team of Brown, Raymond Darbonne, Mike Rodgers and Dwayne Benoit. There was a five-way tie for second at 12 points between teams captained by James Shipley, Rick Pritchett Cricket Owen, Joe Gongora and Ted Freeman.

Closest to the pin winners were Owen (No. 2), Bim Morrow (No. 7), Shipley (No.12) and Cap Hollier (No. 15)

Golf news should be sent to rdwest@usa.net.