What Did Tiger’s Performance at the Valspar Mean?

Tiger Woods finished T2 this week at the Valspar Championship. He held at least a share of the lead multiple times throughout the four rounds and had a look at a birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have forced a playoff with winner Paul Casey. The extraordinary ratings numbers aside, this week signaled that this comeback attempt is for real. It is now not a matter of if, but when Tiger will win again. Don’t just take our word for it though. We had a chance to ask some other golf scribes just what Tiger’s performance this past week meant, here is what they said:

Dan Hauser a.k.a. D Money, TSS (@danhausergolf)

Selection Sunday is supposed to be one of the biggest days on the sports calendar. You have a few conference championship games on the schedule and then the bracket is released where everyone proceeds to either pretend they know everything about every team in the tournament or complain that their team got hosed. On Sunday, the collective sports world was glued to their TVs alright, but it wasn’t to watch TBS’s selection show. No, everyone was watching Tiger Woods damn near win the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbour, Florida. By now you have probably heard that the final round coverage did a 5.1. That is the largest ratings number for the final round in a non-major since the PLAYERS in 2013 (won by you guessed it, Tiger Woods). That 5.1 number was also higher than the final rounds of every major in 2017 except for the Masters. All that for the VALSPAR FREAKING CHAMPIONSHIP (or as a friend of mine so eloquently put it in our group chat yesterday, “the nobody cares open”) a tournament that was largely an afterthought on the Florida Swing for years. Tiger Woods doesn’t just move the needle, he IS the needle.

Dan Bier, Two Inches Short (@TwoInchesShort)

When you looked at the Valspar Championship on the calendar before the start of the season, never in a bazillion years did you think Tiger Woods would have a putt to tie the lead on the 72nd hole, let alone be in the field … but it happened. While holing it would’ve been bananas, the big takeaway is that the 14-time major winner is not only back, he’s – dare we say – better than before?

His swing speed topped out at 129mph, the fastest on the PGA Tour this season (#fused). His touch around the greens looked as deft as it was in 2005. His stingers were breathtaking and the club twirls were flowing. Plus it’s good to see his Scotty Cameron putter that he used to win THIRTEEN majors is back in the bag! Yes, he’s got to clean up a few things, but as he says, it’s all part of the “process.”

Fresh off his T12 finish at the Honda and right into T2 at Valspar with Bay Hill next week – a place where he’s won EIGHT times – and the Masters right around the corner, you got to think that as long as he stays healthy, there’s no reason why he won’t win again … and probably soon.

Chris Chaney, Swing by Swing (@Wrong_Fairway)

Tiger answered so many more questions in the past few weeks than he left out there. First and foremost, the back’s good – I’d expect a knee, Achilles or something else to go wrong physically before his bionic spine – the short game is sharp, his irons are dialed in and his driving is what it is. The main question that remains is: can he win?

Before the back or the chipping yips, post-scandal Tiger’s weekend scoring average left a lot to be desired. His Saturday 67 helped to abate that concern, but a rudderless Sunday brings it top of mind. Of course, there’s the process and his first time in the heat in years, but this is picking nits.

Late last year, a tee time was a step forward for TW. Fast forward to March, we’re a few weeks away from the Masters, and no one would be shocked if he took home another green jacket. Hyperbole be damned, this is incredibly impressive.

Emily Kay, SB Nation (@golfexaminer)

Tiger’s revival means so many things to so many aspects of the game – record TV ratings, escalating ticket prices, an anticipation unlike any other for this year’s Masters, and just the excitement he and an invigorated Phil Mickelson bring even to the casual sport fan.

But the return of a healthy and happy Woods showing off the fastest swing speed on tour this season at the Valspar may have the biggest impact on the 20-somethings who have had the stage to themselves for the few years Tiger’s been on the sidelines. Indeed, Woods’ near-win on Sunday at Innisbrook should have the young stars – Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, in particular – who grew up idolizing him and, recently, proclaiming they would relish the chance to duke it out down the stretch with a resurgent Woods, shaking in their FootJoys. Just ask Ernie Els, who said recently he likely would have earned more than the four major titles he owns if it weren’t for Tiger’s prowess, “crazy” shot-making, and the distractions of the fan and media circus that accompanies Woods everywhere he goes.

For sure, Rory (for the first two rounds at Riviera) and Jordan (the same at the Valspar) got a taste of the Tiger 5.0-inspired frenzy and, safe to say, they were not equipped to deal with the commotion. McIlroy complained of a headache after his two rounds at the Genesis Open and Spieth missed the Valspar cut after an opening 76. So be careful what you wish for, boys, because the Tiger Woods Mystique is once again real and it’s spectacular.

Adam Fonseca, Golf Unfiltered (@GolfUnfiltered)

The resurgence of Tiger is a reminder that even if golf’s torch has been passed, nobody asked him for permission first. This was only one week, but it’s clear Tiger isn’t finished in his mind. Make no mistake: this is his final return. Everyone knows it, including him. But this is not a goodbye tour. Tiger has never wavered in his pursuit of Snead and Nicklaus, and he is finally back to a condition that can compete – and win – against players built in his own image.

Michael Shamburger, The Big Lead (@mshamburger1)

Wow! What a week for golf!

If it wasn’t obvious before-hand, Big Cat moves the needle! If you like him, if you support the comeback, what is undeniable is that it was exciting to watch him do “Tiger” things last week at the Valspar. That putt on the 17th on Sunday was electric, and the excitement in the crowd could be felt through every viewer’s TV.

It’s seems more obvious than ever that Tiger isn’t finished with his career. This guy, at the age of 42, with a fused spine, who could barely walk a couple of years ago, means more for this sport than anyone I can think of for any other sport. He is golf. He brings the hardcore fans, the casual fans, and even the passer-by fans who normally wouldn’t watch one second of this sport. Not only that, he transcends the sport and is one of the most important athletes in history on so many levels.

Here’s to hoping that he can win more than a few more tournaments and a few more majors, because what he’s done for golf can’t be duplicated, and a successful comeback paired with a retirement on his own timeline would leave the sport in a great place with the young guard.

And to anyone who doubted that he wouldn’t be back, I just must say, I TOLD YOU SO!

Ryan Ballengee, GNN (@RyanBallengee)

This week was fantastic. It was incredible for the sport to have arguably the greatest player ever back in the hunt after so many health problems of various kinds. The atmosphere was electric, and there’s only one man in golf who can create that. However, for as great as Woods looked and how quickly he has progressed, I want to be cautious in thinking forward to what might be possible. Golf is fickle, and Woods’ health has been too. But it’s really hard not to let your mind wander like it’s 2013 again.

Alex Myers, Golf Digest (@AlexMyers3)

I was at the Presidents Cup press conference where Tiger admitted he could definitely see a future in which he never returned to competitive golf. What’s transpired in the six months since is nothing short of remarkable. Tiger’s performance this week — and at the Honda Classic — proved he’s still one of the best players in the world, and provided he remains healthy, Woods winning again is a lock. In the meantime, the attention and excitement his latest comeback has generated shows his popularity still transcends golf. This week taught us Tiger might actually have more people pulling for him than ever, and while the sport survived just fine without him, it is thriving with him. He turned the freaking Valspar Championship into a must-watch event. Imagine what the buzz at next month’s Masters is going to be like?!

Josh Berhow, Golf.com (@Josh_Berhow)

Big picture, Tiger’s performance at the Valspar means we might be entering one of the best, most intriguing stretches of golf we’ve seen in a long, long time. Couple his play with Phil Mickelson’s win the week before, a strong cast of likable, talented younger players, and it’s a great time to be a golf fan. This could be epic. Oh, and let’s never count out Tiger again.