Crouch­ing Tiger, re­con­firmed ge­nius. by kent gray

Golf Digest Middle East - - Contents - KENT GRAY kent.gray@mo­ti­ Twit­ter: @Ken­tGrayGolf / @GolfDi­gestME

Three ma­jor ti­tles in his last six starts. The low­est ag­gre­gate in ma­jor cham­pi­onship his­tory, equalling Hen­rik Sten­son’s 264 to­tal at Royal Troon en­route to the 2016 Claret Jug. Just the fifth player af­ter Sarazen, Ho­gan, Nick­laus and Woods to win the U.S. Open and PGA in the same sea­son. And, as­ton­ish­ingly, the side­bar story at Bel­lerive Coun­try Club.

With three of his four PGA Tour wins com­ing in ma­jors, Brooks Koepka is the big­gest of Big Game Hunters. But the Big Cat still rules the jun­gle, re­fus­ing to be in­tim­i­dated by the “Beast of Bel­lerive”, nor felled by a fused back or even 42 years of per­sonal scar tis­sue to go with all those ma­jes­tic pro­fes­sional peaks.

Tiger Woods didn’t know if he’d play again af­ter a fourth back surgery. When he came back for the umpteenth time at his own tour­na­ment in the Ba­hamans be­fore Christ­mas, he had no idea if he could com­pete in the ex­hi­bi­tion hit and gig­gle, let alone win on tour again. He may never do so – golf is like that – but Woods’ per­for­mance at the 100th PGA Cham­pi­onship proves he is once more a tour de force, a de­li­cious prospect as we eye­ball the 42nd Ry­der Cup matches near where cy­cling’s Tour de France con­cludes ev­ery year. De­li­cious un­less of course, you are Euro­pean cap­tain Thomas Bjorn. Jim Furyk had an em­bar­rass­ment of riches for Paris be­fore Tiger forced his way from as­sis­tant cap­tain to as­sured pick, as he surely will be for late September.

When the former world No.1 missed the cut in the U.S. Open won by Koepka at Erin Hills, plenty were ready to write him off. Again. They said Carnoustie was per­haps Tiger’s best, last chance to add a 15th ma­jor ti­tle and he very nearly did be­fore fad­ing on Sun­day to a share of sixth in the 147th Open. But he trumped it all with his play in St. Louis, bat­tling a two-way miss off the tee Sun­day to pro­duce his low­est ever score in a ma­jor. By four stokes. That alone speaks vol­umes of Koepka’s long-bomb­ing bril­liance.

“It’s tough when guys hit it 340 down the mid­dle,” Tiger said. “…320 in the air is like a chip shot, that’s the new game.” In­deed.

But the old fella is still the marker and beloved by the masses de­spite his off course in­dis­cre­tions. Even Koepka, per­haps the most un­flap­pable 28-year-old walk­ing the planet, con­curred.

“Apart from me and my team, ev­ery­one was root­ing for Tiger and they should be.”

As mem­o­rable as this year’s ma­jors have been, they’ll quickly be for­got­ten when the fire­works be­gin at Le Golf Na­tional on September 28.

It’s amaz­ing to think Woods will likely play. Even driv­ing a buggy, his mere pres­ence is worth a cou­ple of points for the Amer­i­cans. Imag­ine what he could in­spire if he can kick on from Bel­lerive.

Af­ter cov­er­ing the 40th matches in 2014, I can’t wait. From the open­ing tee shots to the cringe-wor­thy Tom Wat­son- Phil Mick­el­son Team USA post mortem/press-con­fer­ence, Gle­nea­gles was mes­meris­ing theatre. Some­how the Rory v Reed shhh-athon at Hazel­tine two years ago upped the ante. Who knows what will tran­spire in Paris but the form of both sides prom­ises some­thing spe­cial and no-one does spe­cial quite like Woods.

A 15th ma­jor would be the great­est come­back in sports, let alone golf. But for ro­man­tic sto­ries, how about Tiger in­spir­ing Team USA to a first win on Euro­pean soil in 25 years? Those would be some bit­ter-sweet fist-pumps for plenty of de­vout/amazed Europe/Tiger fans.

“The Big Cat still rules the jun­gle, re­fus­ing to be in­tim­i­dated by even the ‘ Beast of Bel­lerive’.”

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