Tiger Woods was 6 years old when he first met Sam Snead, who played a two-hole show in Southern California with Woods, and then said, “If the kid doesn't burn out, he's the world's greatest golfer ever seen. "
37 years later, Woods was back in Snead's company. Woods chased Snead at the first Zozo championship in Chiba, Japan, and took a wire-to-wire win on Monday for his 82nd tour win, which prevailed against Snead, the PGA Tour career Leader. It was Woods 359th start, which means he won about a quarter of the tour events he played.
The place of Wood's latest milestone was itself an allusion to his eminence. Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club was the first Japanese golf course to host a PGA tour, as the US-based circuit continues to spread to distant areas that are famous for Woods.
Woods' global reach was evident in the large crowd – sometimes 20 fans or more – that caught a glimpse of him. His global influence was also evident in the form of his main challenger, the Japanese Hideki Matsuyama, whose golf trip was inspired by Woods.
After Woods won his first Masters in 1997, 5-year-old Matsuyama said he had played the video of Woods 12-stroke victory repeatedly. Matsuyama offered this anecdote in 2016 after winning the Woods-hosted tournament in the Bahamas, 14 strokes behind when he returned to the competition after a back injury paused him for about 15 months.
Matsuyama started the last lap in second and ended there. Woods is denied the opportunity to compete against each other in the final grouping. To save time, the players were not paired again before the start of their fourth round on Sunday. Matsuyama ended three Strikes behind Woods, who screwed the last hole with a 67, 19 under par for the tournament to close.
"That's big," said Woods in an interview with the 18th green. "Hideki made it tight, much closer than people probably thought." When he won his 82nd, Woods said, "Just insane. That's a lot. I've been able to do most of my career consistently."
Woods had not played competitively for two months after an operation in August to repair minor cartilage damage to his left knee.
Snead was right to be concerned about the invisible forces that could stumble up the forest. But burnout has never been Wood's problem. A collapsed body has prevented him from becoming the greatest golfer the world has ever seen.
When the 2018-19 season ended, the only physical discomfort Woods mentioned was a slight oblique strain that made him withdraw from his before the second round penultimate start at the Northern Trust, It was only after Woods realized that his knee had bothered him before he celebrated his first win in five years at the 2018 Tour Championship. With this admission, the secret of his sudden disappearance from the leaderboards was solved.
After Woods won the Masters for his 15th major title in April, it was expected that the result would catapult him to great heights. It seemed perfectly conceivable that he would clarify the five-victory bar he set in 2013. At least that's what I thought, and I was in good company.
Instead, he only had six starts last season after the Masters and his best result after Augusta was a draw for the ninth.
"If he wins the Masters, you think he'll win another five majors," said Adam Scott, the former world leader from Australia, last month at the Safeway Open in Napa"And now we don't know exactly how he's doing."
Woods, who turns 44 in two months, looked as fit as a half-aged player, and his ball stroke and putting was reminiscent of the Woods of Lore, whose appearance on the leaderboard causes Angina in his competition.
From Francesco Molinari of Italy, who ended with 74 in the Masters with Woods, to Keegan Bradley, who played 71 in the third round in Japan while playing next to him, the tiger effect seems to be back in play his. Twice in the last two rounds, Woods extended his lead to five secretarial strikes.
Winning from the beginning is not easy. Ask Matsuyama, who saw his leadership in the Hero World Challenge 2016 shrink by seven strokes to two before straightening up. But Woods, at number 10 in the world, is more difficult to catch up with than a marlin. He won 44 out of 46 times when he had the direct 54 hole lead, including all 25 times when his advantage was at least three strokes.
How can someone improve in a calendar year wearing a green Masters jacket and the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Let Woods find a way. His win on Monday prepares him for at least one more magical moment: a spot on the United States Presidents Cup team, which he will take over as captain in Melbourne, Australia in December. His dual role would only be filled in 1994 by another American captain, Hale Irwin.
Wood's victory also arouses his dream of returning to Japan next summer to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics. Don't think that it hasn't occurred to him yet.
"I have never participated in Olympic games and I am sure that I will not have many opportunities in the future," said Woods last week before the tournament.
Woods needs to stay healthy and play golf more consistently than after the Masters to have a chance. Even if Wood's game in Chiba turned out to be nothing more than a bright rainbow after a big storm, it was great to see it.