The Trend continues.
For a third consecutive time, Tiger Woods rolled to victory in his tune up for a major championship. This week, it was his own tourney- The AT&T National at Congressional.
Woods shot a three under, 67 to capture his third win of the season. What made this victory just as impressive as his comeback win at The Memorial was the fact that a playoff with Hunter Mahan was just one slip up away. Mahan, who entered the clubhouse long before Tiger did, shot a course record-tying eight under 62 and climbed to within one shot of the greedy host. Mahan was showed anxiously hitting balls at the course range, waiting and wishing for a playoff hole or two. He quickly learned that waiting around for Tiger Woods to make a mistake on the Sunday back nine is often an endless proposition .
It was a fine way to close the tournament. In many ways, it was the only way to close this tournament. The head of the Tiger Woods Foundation was on the radio on Friday afternoon talking about what had gone into preparing for this weekend. He told us that in April, he handed Woods a general outline for the weekend. The laundry list of obligations for Tiger was a vast one. Certainly more then any regular pro is used to on a tournament weekend. But the very last line of the itinerary made Tiger a little less trepidation about the whole ordeal. It read "hand the trophy to yourself." While it was certainly a humorous way to look at the end to a daunting weekend, it proved symbolic. After all, despite his hosting duties, he was still a competitor in the field. The speeches and galas and pro-am on Wednesday was nice. But Woods didn't come to smile, shake hands, and slap some golf balls around. Woods came to win. Unlike his victory at The Memorial, you never got the sense that he wouldn't.
Sunday left no doubt. After a bogey on the par four 11th (the same hole that Tiger doubled up on Saturday), Woods was nothing but consistent. Six pars and a birdie later, this weeks host was handing the trophy to himself. Now Tiger must turn his attention to Turnbury, the site of the British Open. While Tiger is one tour win away from the "major tuneup grand slam", he is 0-2 in Major tournaments this year. In both The Masters and the U.S Open, he entered the final day within striking distance, but was not really a factor by the final few holes. You can guarantee that Tiger takes no solace in his three pre-major wins if he fails to get one of the big titles. The "major tuneup grand slam" is fun for golf geeks like me to write about, but no one really remembers any individual non-major tournament triumphs as "great". Tiger thrives on being great.
As for the feature "non Tiger story" of the weekend, Anthony Kim, he faded a little to finish third. Kim was a bit off all day. He shot a one over, 71. At one point during the final round, it seemed like Kim hit more people than fairways. More than once, the 24-year old launched his tee shot into the gallery. He recovered nicely on some holes, considering the placement, but playing golf's version of dodge ball with the paying public seldom results in PGA Tour wins. However, Kim's week should not go unnoticed. A year after winning at Congressional, Kim spent much of the weeked with at least a share of the lead. As I've written all weekend, golf experts tend to think he's the next big thing. This weekend did nothing to disprove that theory. Hey fellow golf geeks!- Want a ridiculously early favorite for the 2011 U.S Open at Congressional?....how about Anthony Kim?
Next up on Tour: The John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois- Because of Phil Mickleson at The St. Jude, I don't think we got the full "weekend before a major" experience in June. The field isn't the greatest, but some big names still are making the trip. Defending champion Kenny Perry returns from his week off to try and continue his outstanding season and take back the FedEx cup lead (Woods took control with his win this weekend)....... U.S Open champion Lucas Glover looks to prove he will never take a week off....... David Duval is back. He hasn't played since his back-from-the-dead performance at the U.S Open. Was that just a fluke, or as I wrote after the Open, has Duval awoken from a Rip Van Winkle-like nap....Steve Stricker also plays for the first time since Bethpage and looks to add to his six top ten finishes...