DUBLIN, Ohio — Tiger Woods needed only two words to explain where the Memorial fits in on his road back from wherever he was to wherever he is going.
“I won,” he said.
When trying to chart his progress, golf becomes more like watching tennis.
He wins at Sherwood and then can’t shake Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi. Phil Mickelson blows him away at Pebble Beach and then Woods shoots a career-best final round of 62 to put a scare into Rory McIlroy. He withdraws from Doral with a sore Achilles tendon and then wins by five at Bay Hill. He has the worst three-tournament stretch of his career and then hardly misses a shot at Muirfield Village.
“I’m sure by Tuesday I’ll be retired and done,” Woods said Sunday. “And then by the time I tee it up at the U.S. Open, it might be something different.”
His remarkable rally at the Memorial makes the temptation greater than ever to proclaim that he has turned the corner.
Woods said he hit just about every shot exactly how he wanted to.
“I had it all today,” he said. “Whatever club I wanted to hit, I could hit. That was fun to have it when I needed it.”
Equally impressive was his score, which ultimately is what matters.
Woods figured if he could make one more birdie over the closing stretch, it might be enough for him to get into a playoff. He was praying for par when his 8-iron bounced over the green at the par-3 16th into a horrible spot. The ball was nestled in the rough, and the path 50 feet to the hole looked impossible. Too short, and it would turn down a slope and leave a difficult two-putt bogey. Too strong, and it would race into the water.
With a full swing and flop shot, the ball rode the crown of a ridge at the right speed and dropped in for a birdie not even he saw coming.
“It was one of the hardest ones I’ve pulled off,” Woods said when asked to rank it among his best shots.
After 18, he had 5-under 67 and a two-shot win. It was his fifth win at Muirfield Village, the fifth course on which he has won at least five times. And it was the 73rd win of his PGA Tour career, tying him with Jack Nicklaus, the tournament host who was there, as always, to greet the winner.
If Woods doesn’t win the U.S. Open is he done?
Woods talked about his game being good in spurts at other tournaments. The process is to put good rounds together.
Maybe the next step is putting good tournaments together. In tennis terms, this would be time for a changeover. It’s best to wait until the end of the year – or at least until August, the end of the majors – to figure out where he stands.